By Lucy Dunn is the President and CEO of the Orange County Business Council
The LA Times recently published an article calling into question the viability of Orange County’s Toll Roads in light of a formal inquiry launched by state Treasurer Bill Lockyer into whether the roads can cover the interest payments to private investors who purchased tollway bonds. This could be a sitcom if it weren’t funny, however.
Orange County is the toll road capital of the State of California, with almost 60 miles of toll roads, adding to the highly successful Riverside County/Orange County 91 Express Lanes. As a result, commuters have been able to make choices about travel for decades, paying a little extra fee for faster service, or not depending on the driver’s schedule. And now we see Los Angeles following in OC’s footsteps with the opening of the I-110 Express Lanes and coming soon I-10 Express Lanes in downtown.
But the irony of the day is that if, in fact, the Orange County toll road system is in financial trouble, it is due in large part to government officials–including Bill Lockyer, in his former role as California Attorney General–suing to stop the Transportation Corridor Agencies, and others doing everything in their power to prevent, over-regulate or delay the completion of the system to assure financial viability.
TCA has been stopped at every attempt to connect the toll road system to the I-5 freeway (denied last by the California Coastal Commission) and just this month, Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA) rejected an express lane/toll connection between the I-73 toll road and the I-405 freeway. The very folks in the Times’ story complaining about the financial viability of toll roads have actually contributed to the slow torture of a great idea: choice.
P.S. It’s also time to better align Orange County’s two transportation agencies, TCA and OCTA, now that they are both collecting tolls.