The Toll Roads Give Back to the Community with Environmental and Educational Programs Geared Towards Protecting the Environment
With the 20 year anniversary of The Transportation Corridor Agencies’ (TCA) launch of FasTrak® just around the corner, TCA recognizes a history of comprehensive efforts and commitment to environmental conservation and education. The various award-winning environmental and educational programs have contributed to the thousands of acres of permanently conserved lands throughout Orange County, enhanced wildlife connectivity, improved air quality, and introduced the community and Orange County youth to prehistoric Orange County. A sampling of TCA programs include:
Native Habitat Program – 22 Years: TCA is a major contributor to the Central/Coastal Natural Community Conservation Plan (NCCP) and has set aside and protected 37,000 acres of prime habitat in Orange County for 42 individual species including 18,831 acres of coastal sage scrub habitat, 7,290 acres of chaparral, 6,104 acres of grasslands, 1,818 acres of riparian and significant portions of eight other habitat types. About 318 acres of land owned by TCA are included within the reserve. Approximately 381 California gnatcatchers and 674 cactus wren sightings have occurred within the reserve system.
Improved Air Quality – 20 Years: The Toll Roads are designed to maintain “free flow” travel conditions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Greenhouse gas emissions are highest along heavily congested highways, such as Interstate 5 or the 91 freeway, and contribute to respiratory problems such as asthma. In addition to the health benefits of The Toll Roads, the National Motorists Association reports that less fuel is consumed in free-flowing conditions by driving at steady speeds and avoiding complete stops. And, less fuel used means fewer emissions released into our environment and cleaner air.
The Spring Tours – 13 Years: Each spring, TCA has hosted free guided hikes through more than 2,100 acres of open space that were protected with construction of the 73, 133, 241 and 261 Toll Roads. More than 1,400 people have enjoyed the tour series since the program began, which teaches participants how native plant communities were carefully restored to protect threatened species and how these conservation areas are maintained to protect wildlife and the environment for future generations. The tours are led by an ornithologist and the restoration ecologist and biologist who has spent the last two decades restoring these sites to their native habitat and contributing to The Toll Roads’ award-winning environmental programs.
Fossils in Your Backyard – 11 Years: Paleontologists and archaeologists spent thousands of hours monitoring and collecting fossils spanning 90 million years — from the nearly complete skeleton of a baleen whale to jawbone fragments of what is believed to be California’s first dinosaur-era mammal. TCA has taken great care to not only preserve these important links to our prehistoric past, but to ensure that they are shared with the public. TCA provides funding for curation and exhibition and has hired paleontologists to properly prepare, document and store the fossils.
Additionally, TCA partnered with LSA Associates to launch Fossils in Your Backyard, a free educational program for local school children. Taught by a professional paleontologist, the program has given more than 50,000 children a glimpse of what life was like in prehistoric Orange County through a hands-on look at fossils and artifacts that were discovered when The Toll Roads were built.