SAN DIEGO CA:CA-125/South Toll Road Gets Key Permits
By Peter Samuel
Early March CTV received clearance from the US Fish and Wildlife Service for its mitigation program for endangered Quino Checkerspot butterflies which it reported on the right of way. This species was formally listed as endangered during the permitting process.
The permit just received is called a non-jeopardy biological opinion in which the F&WS, a unit of the US Dept of the Interior declares officially that the mitigation plan presented by CTV to relocate and preserve the butterflies meets the requirements of the Endangered Species Act. Within a few days CTV also received clearance from the Corps of Engineers for its wetlands plans.
Kent Olsen told us: Im very confident well get the federal Record of Decision by the late summer or the fall. We have had a lot of help from various agencies, congressmen, from the city. We have done everything exactly by the book. Weve followed the letter of the law and the regulations. I think weve got solid documentation of everything.
Butterflies in the Road
Because of the butterflies (TRnl#33 Nov 98 p8)) the group has to submit a Supplemental Enviro Impact Statement. There is a 45 day review period, public hearings, recording of, and response to comment, and incorporation in the final document.
Olsen says the group is working on requests for design-build bids and hopes to issue those simultaneously with the record of decision about late summer. Financial closing should occur before March 2000 with construction to start soon afterwards on a 30 month contract. Two thirds of the right of way is being donated by developers keen to have the road built and construction can start on this part right away. The remaining third of the land has to be acquired by CTV following the closing.
The endangered species of butterfly was discovered by CTV and reported by them. It was the first case involving this species of butterfly and CTV had to scurry to develop a credible mitigation plan. That involves establishing a new reserve of the dot-seed plantain plants that the butterflies live off. Butterfly mitigation delayed the project one year, and will cost $1.7m, Olsen says.
One neighborhood group that opposes the road for its local impacts and a regional enviro group have both said they will go to court against the toll road once the record of decision comes out. Olsen says he doesnt think they will have a sufficiently strong legal case to delay the project further.
CTV is a partnership of Parsons Brinckerhoff, Egis Projects (the new name for the French toll group Transroute) and Koch Industries, the asphalt pavement specialists.
CTV signed a franchise agreement with Caltrans for the project in 1991 and target dates for different stages of the project have repeatedly been missed.
The roadway itself has long been planned as part of an outer network of highways in developing hilly areas on the eastern fringe of the San Diego metro area (population 2.8m). Its success will depend heavily on the state or others building connecting motorways to the north, on the pace of metro area development and on the growth of trade with Mexico.
The highway also known as the San Miguel Parkway is a major north-south motorway from Spring Valley east of San Diego at CA-54 south 18km (11mi) to the new US-Mexico border crossing of Otay Mesa. The highway provides a third north-south route the others being I-5 and I-805, both of which converge near the overcrowded San Ysidro-Tijuana crossing. The 125-S alignment is about 15km (9mi) inland from the Pacific coast and about 8km (5mi) east of the nearest competitive mwy, I-805. It is due to have 7 intermediate interchanges initially, with several more possible later.
Currently the north-south I-5 by the Pacific carries 140k -170k veh/day and I-805 nearer the proposed toll road 80k -160k veh/day. Forecasts published by Caltrans suggest in the absence of 125/South these will grow to 210k veh/d (I-5) and 180kveh/day (I-805) by 2015. They project that with 125/South as a freeway I-5 would be cut 10k veh/d and I-805 by about 30k veh/d and that traffic on 125S would run in the range 100k to 170k veh/day. It will be built 4 and 6-lanes initially with provision for widening to 2x5-lanes. Initial capital cost will be about $500m. The work involves some long bridges and much careful landscape work to reduce impacts on developed communities through which it threads at the northern end.
Previous reports have been TRnl#21 Nov 97 p15 and TRnl#33 Nov 98 p8. (Contacts Kent Olsen, CTV 619 338 8385)