Every journey starts with a single step and mine ended 1,200 miles later, when I moved my home base from Seattle to Orange County to become chief executive officer of The Transportation Corridor Agencies (TCA).
I joined TCA five months ago for the unique opportunity to collaborate with two boards of directors comprised entirely of elected officials and because I see The Toll Roads as a critical – but often overlooked and undervalued – lifeline for regional mobility in Southern California that gives drivers an express choice.
State Routes 73, 133, 241 and 261 are not just Orange County roads, they are Southern California roads that are critical for people traveling to and from Los Angeles, San Diego and the Inland Empire. Roughly 80 percent of the trips that pass through our Windy Ridge Mainline Toll Plaza are made by people who reside outside of Orange County and 40 percent of TCA FasTrak® accounts belong to out-of-county drivers.
TCA’s history is unique, inspired and full of firsts. Our public joint powers agencies were formed in 1986 to plan, finance, construct and operate The Toll Roads – 51 miles of roadway representing the largest network of toll roads in the state. Built with virtually no taxpayer dollars, The Toll Roads were funded through the sale of bonds to private and institutional investors, and supplemented with development impact fees. The bonds can only be repaid with tolls and development impact fees and since the bonds are not backed by the government, taxpayers will never be liable for repaying the debt. We are responsible borrowers who have never missed a bond payment and have always had fully-funded debt service reserves.
Going forward, we will focus on improving our customer service; focusing on our customers who make a choice every time they drive The Toll Roads. We will listen and do everything we can to attract more drivers to The Toll Roads because it is better for everyone on every road.
We will improve connectivity. Direct connections from the 241 Toll Road to the 91 Express Lanes and from the median of the 405 freeway to the 73 Toll Road will further advance regional mobility and benefit all residents and commuters.
We will work diligently to find an alternative to Interstate 5 going south through South Orange County. Today’s congestion in South Orange County is bad enough. It will get worse with the addition of 55,000 new residents in the Rancho Mission Viejo development. We need to find solutions that all interested parties can support.
And, finally, in 2014 we will eliminate the need to stop and pay at toll booths. We will give all drivers the experience of non-stop driving, leading to more time savings and more predictability.
In my first 100 days, I met with employees, board members, supporters, opponents, the media and our customers. I will continue listening, meeting, seeking, working, exploring, planning, learning and mapping out the future of TCA and The Toll Roads. I hope that you’ll join me on the ride. Our goal: to relieve traffic in both the short term and long term.