A Different Type Of Creative Solution

More than 30 years ago, in an era of exploding population, worsening traffic congestion and shrinking government transportation funds, Orange County produced a new, different solution for planning, financing, constructing and operating transportation improvements. A partnership with county and city officials took little-used, innovative governmental techniques and fashioned them into a unique transportation model.

A Senate bill passed in 1987 made the Transportation Corridor Agencies (TCA) two Joint Powers Authorities responsible for constructing new roads as toll facilities funded by bonds backed by future toll revenues and development impact fees.

Now, TCA is one of modern tolling's leading agencies, bringing much-needed traffic relief to Orange County.

Roads That Make A Difference

Orange County is home to beautiful beaches, world-class shopping and the happiest place on earth. It’s also home to the largest network of toll roads in the state. Comprised of State Routes 73, 133, 241 and 261, The Toll Roads make up more than 20 percent of Orange County’s highway system and are the fastest, easiest and most predictable way to get to and through Orange County.

More than 300,000 tolls are collected on The Toll Roads every weekday. That's nearly 100 million tolls in Fiscal Year 2017. Without The Toll Roads, those vehicles would be on Orange County's congested freeways and arterials. Everybody's drive would be different without The Toll Roads.

A Different Way To Fund Transportation

To finance the roads, toll revenue bonds were sold as the primary funding source. The bonds can only be repaid by future tolls and development impact fees. Since the bonds are not backed by the government, taxpayers are not responsible for repaying the debt nor do taxpayers carry the risk if future toll revenues fall short. Today, toll revenue and development impact fees go toward making bond payments, funding additional improvements and covering costs of operating The Toll Roads.

Prior to The Toll Roads, no local agency in California had ever built highway facilities without state and federal funds.

Some people think tolls are a tax, but that is not the case. Tolls are voluntary user fees. Drivers can choose to pay tolls or take alternative routes -- whereas taxes are mandatory and charged to everyone. If it weren't for tolls, many of the best roads and bridges in the U.S. might never have been built.

Different Investments Can Be Good Investments

In 2013 and 2014, TCA's bond debt was refinanced to take advantage of historically low interest rates and establish debt structures that align with The Toll Roads’ historical revenue growth. Since the refinancings, transactions and revenue have exceeded projections and reserves have grown, providing stability to weather future economic downturns and support the financing of TCA’s Capital Improvement Program. As of August 1, 2017, all of TCA’s senior lien bonds had investment grade ratings from the three major credit rating agencies (Standard & Poor's, Moody's and Fitch Group).

TCA's finances have never been in better condition -- as evidenced by recent bond ratings upgrades, strong liquidity and growing reserve fund balances. Transactions and revenue numbers are at an all-time high.

Different Partners For Unprecedented Results

TCA functions as a small agency with big partnerships. Everything we do involves a partnership and fruitful collaboration with community members, regional transportation planners and stakeholders. TCA's partners include:

  • Caltrans -- Maintenance of The Toll Roads as part of the state highway system
  • California Highway Patrol -- Law enforcement
  • Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG) -- Planning and policy initiatives for Southern California
  • Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA) -- Collaboration for regional mobility solutions
  • Orange County Public Works -- Traffic flow improvement and connectivity
  • Orange County Central/Coastal Natural Communities Conservation Plan/Habitat Conservation Plan (NCCP/HCP) -- A connected network of permanent open spaces across Orange County

Setting Aside Differences

TCA has joined more than a dozen environmental organizations in a landmark, award-winning settlement that underscores the collaboration between TCA’s leadership and the leaders of the environmental community. It is with this collaboration and framework that TCA will move forward to review alternative solutions for solving the regional traffic problem in a manner that protects our most environmentally and culturally sensitive lands.

The Foothill-South Settlement Agreement followed a 20-year effort by TCA to gain approval for the southern extension of the 241 Toll Road. The agreement clears the path for a new process to find a balanced solution that provides traffic relief while also protecting sensitive lands and cultural resources.

A Different Kind of Environmental Pioneer

For a quarter century, TCA's environmental initiatives have preserved scenic beauty and healthy ecosystems while building sustainable transportation solutions and operating the state's largest network of toll roads.

TCA was an early partner and major financial contributor to The Orange County Central/Coastal Natural Communities Conservation Plan/Habitat Conservation Plan (NCCP/HCP). The NCCP/HCP and its idea of creating multi-species habitats — instead of focusing on one plant or animal species at a time — broke new ground and developed a large-scale plan to protect 39 individual species. Ultimately, it launched a new approach for coordinating development and habitat preservation.

Today, the land set aside under the NCCP/HCP stretches over nearly 40,000 acres from Orange County’s coast to the Cleveland National Forest and shelters seven federally protected species and more than 30 sensitive species. The coastal sage scrub found on half of the NCCP/HCP land represents one of the rarest ecosystems in the world – often compared to the Amazon, Madagascar and the eastern Himalayas for its breadth of biodiversity.

In order to balance construction of The Toll Roads, TCA has restored and preserved in perpetuity more than 2,200 acres of open space in Orange County -- many of which are home to the federally protected songbird, the California gnatcatcher. The open spaces that we protect remind us of bygone days, when ranchers, farmers, cattle and the occasional mountain lion populated Orange County.

Delivering a Project Differently

TCA was one of the first agencies in the state to use the pioneering design-build method for the construction of public roads. The approach combines design and construction simultaneously to save time and money and incentivize private-sector companies to complete projects on time.

TCA has a number of capital projects in the works: Toll Booth Removal Project; South Orange County Traffic Relief Effort; 241/91 Express Connector Project; and the Oso Parkway Bridge Project

Working Toward A Different Future

With Orange County’s population expected to increase by more than 250,000 residents and traffic delays projected to increase by 66 percent by 2040, TCA is committed to identifying solutions that will relieve the traffic congestion on Interstate 5 through South Orange County.

In Fiscal Year 2017 (FY17), TCA conducted a study of the South Orange County community which identified high levels of agreement that there is a growing traffic problem that people expect their elected officials and public agencies to fix. There is undoubtedly excessive I-5 traffic during the morning and evening commute times, on weekends and whenever there is an accident or incident that impacts an I-5 traffic lane. Data has concluded that this severe congestion is significantly impacting quality of life for South Orange County families, residents, business owners and commuters.

TCA, Caltrans and the Orange County Transportation Authority are working to address traffic congestion concerns in South Orange County. TCA is studying traffic congestion relief ideas proposed by the public during three public forums. Some of these ideas will be evaluated as part of the formal environmental review process.

Drivers Pay In Different Ways

TCA offers drivers multiple ways to pay tolls incurred on The Toll Roads. There's a way to pay that is ideal for all of our different driver types -- daily commuters, weekend warriors, area visitors and the occasional user.

With a FasTrak® account, drivers prepay tolls and mount a transponder to their vehicle’s windshield for electronic toll collection. FasTrak drivers pay tolls that are $1 less than all other drivers. And, the FasTrak transponder allows accountholders to pay tolls electronically on every tolled bridge, lane and road in California. TCA is the creator of FasTrak.

With an ExpressAccount®, photos of a vehicle's license plates are used to record transactions and tolls are charged individually to a credit card (ExpressAccount Charge), withdrawn from a prefunded account (ExpressAccount Prepaid) or invoiced at the end of the month (ExpressAccount Invoice). An ExpressAccount may only be used to pay tolls on the 73, 133, 241 and 261 Toll Roads and does not use a transponder for toll collection.

The One-Time-Toll® online payment option was created specifically for area visitors or infrequent users of The Toll Roads. Within five days before or five days after driving, tolls can be paid using The Toll Roads free app or online at TheTollRoads.com using the One-Time-Toll feature. Drivers can enter specific trip details to calculate their own toll(s) or enter their license plate number to have tolls calculated for them.

Record-breaking Days Make A Difference

TCA’s solid financial health and continued growth in transactions and revenue, reflect The Toll Roads’ value to Orange County’s vibrant economy and transportation network. During the last three years, The Toll Roads’ ridership has increased by nearly 20 percent.

This year, ridership numbers on the 73 Toll Road set new records for every day of the week. The 133, 241 and 261 Toll Roads had four record-setting days and all of The Toll Roads combined had five record-setting days when ridership reached numbers never-before-seen.

In FY17, more trips were taken and more transactions were recorded on The Toll Roads than any other year in TCA’s history.

Fiscal Year 2017 Highlights

The Foothill-South Settlement Agreement followed a 20-year effort by TCA to gain approval for the southern extension of the 241 Toll Road. The agreement settles five lawsuits with environmental groups and the California Attorney General, clearing the path for a new process and allowing TCA to find a balanced solution for providing traffic relief to South Orange County while also protecting sensitive lands and cultural resources. The landmark agreement was recognized with the 2017 Sustainability Award from the Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG).

At the south end of the 241 Toll Road, a bridge is proposed for construction along a portion of Oso Parkway to allow traffic to safely transition from the 241 Toll Road to Los Patrones Parkway. Los Patrones Parkway (south of Oso Parkway) is currently under construction and will provide access to and from new neighborhoods being constructed in Rancho Mission Viejo. Funding for the bridge project was approved by the Foothill/Eastern Transportation Corridor Agency Board of Directors and is being delivered through a partnership with the County of Orange. When complete, the new bridge will improve traffic flow and enhance safety in the area. Construction will begin in the first quarter of 2018.

Faneuil Inc. was selected to provide the staffing and management for The Toll Roads' day-to-day customer service operations -- a major milestone in TCA's effort to continue enhancing customer service for the 300,000 daily drivers and one million accountholders. The $100-million, 10-year Customer Service Center Operations contract includes call center operations, customer communications, account management, violation processing, FasTrak transponder management and payment processing.

The 241/91 Express Connector Project's Supplemental Environmental Impact Report/Environmental Impact Statement was made available to the public. An open-house-style public meeting took place in November and the public comment period was held from November 7, 2016, to January 9, 2017. TCA, in coordination with Caltrans, proposed to add a direct connector linking the northbound 241 Toll Road to the eastbound 91 Express Lanes and the westbound 91 Express Lanes to the southbound 241 Toll Road. The direct, median-to-median tolled connector will reduce traffic congestion in both directions, enhance safety by reducing weaving across lanes and improve access to toll lanes in Orange and Riverside Counties.

TCA was named Agency of the Year and CEO Michael Kraman was named Person of the Year by the California Transportation Foundation (CTF) at their 28th Annual Transportation Awards ceremony that recognizes excellence in California transportation. Established more than 20 years ago, CTF is the leading charitable transportation organization in the state

At its Annual Awards and Scholarship Gala, the Orange County chapter of Women’s Transportation Seminar (WTS) named TCA 2016's Employer of the Year.

TCA reached the milestone of having one million open ExpressAccounts® and FasTrak® accounts. While that’s an account for every household in Orange County, all 50 states have at least one resident with a Toll Roads account – with California, Nevada and Arizona leading the pack. Born and raised in Orange County, FasTrak is nearly a quarter of a century old and still the preferred account type – 60 percent of TCA’s open accounts are FasTrak accounts.

The Toll Roads Rental Toll Program won the Association of California Cities – Orange County’s 2016 Golden Hub of Innovation Award in the “Public Private Partnership” category. The award recognizes public agencies that have worked with private industry to achieve a common goal, provide a service or reduce costs.

TCA worked with Caltrans and the CHP to implement improvements that addressed customer and safety concerns where the northbound 241 Toll Road ends by merging with the 91 Freeway. A double, eight-inch wide, solid white stripe with reflective markers replaced a single white stripe that separated the westbound and eastbound lanes. The road pavement was stenciled to indicate the appropriate lanes for “91 West” and “91 East” drivers. Additional road signs were installed and changeable message signs were updated to remind drivers to use the proper lanes. And, finally, CHP began more vigorously patrolling the area for drivers who illegally cross the solid white stripes.

The 73 Toll Road turned 20 years old. The 15-mile road boasts 10 interchanges, 65 bridges and more than 60 million gallons of bridge concrete. During its first year, more than 11 million tolls were collected on the road; now a mature 20-year-old, nearly 31 million tolls are collected on the road annually.

A new version of the One-Time-Toll online payment option was launched, making it easier for account-less drivers to pay their tolls. Drivers who do not have FasTrak® or an ExpressAccount® no longer need to know the road they drove and their entry/exit points to pay their tolls – all they need to know is their license plate number.

The Toll Roads Rewards program got a new look and was reintroduced. As a token of appreciation, accountholders receive free and/or deeply discounted products and services from local retailers when they drive The Toll Roads at least once during the month. The Toll Roads Rewards Program is free for our more than one million accountholders and is easy to join while opening and/or managing an account. To date, more than 270,000 accountholders are Rewards Members.

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