I drive to and from Anaheim Hills and Irvine on The Toll Roads every day. I love my congestion-free drive. But before you begin rolling your eyes at the gal who works for The Toll Roads, I’ve learned new reasons and meaning to love and appreciate my drive.
My commute is a free-flowing 25 minutes and provides ample stress-free time to call my Mom from my Bluetooth. I check-in; ask about her day, and how Dad and “the boys” (their three dogs) are doing. Our chats are always engaging and a relaxing way to end my work day, but one thing that never fails is Mom’s daily question, “are you driving the corridor today?” to which I always reply, “Mom, it’s called The Toll Road” (as if a teenager is scolding her Mom for not using cool lingo).
This week marks 20 years since the Transportation Corridor Agencies (TCA) opened the first phase of the San Joaquin Hills Transportation Corridor, known to most people as the 73 Toll Road. And in celebrating this milestone, the word corridor brings new meaning to me, my job and a drive that I don’t take for granted.
In the summer of 1996, I didn’t yet have my driver’s license, but Mariah Carey’s “Always Be My Baby” was a summer chart topper and “Macarena” was one of the coolest songs out there; Independence Day with Will Smith was also a box office hit. The Toll Roads – 51 miles of open road that serve as alternatives to Orange County’s congested freeways – have always been part of my driving experience, and anyone who’s been driving in Orange County since the late 90’s, knows no different. But to my Mom, who still calls them “the corridors,” they provide a much-needed sigh of relief to Orange County’s gridlock and enhanced the county’s transportation landscape while also preserving open space.
On July 20, 1996, TCA invited residents of Orange County to Cruise the Corridor as they celebrated the opening of the first phase of the San Joaquin Hills Transportation Corridor. I found the invitation and program as I dug through our archives. In the summer of ’96, thousands of Orange County residents joined TCA for a fun run to experience the road before it opened to traffic and to celebrate 20 years of planning and nearly four years of construction. The new road was the first seven-mile stretch of a corridor that would ultimately take drivers 15 miles from Laguna Niguel to Newport Beach, providing a new transportation alternative to the 5 and 405 freeways.
Leading up to the opening of the new San Joaquin Hills Transportation Corridor, Mom read headlines about TCA’s strong environmental programs used throughout construction and the innovative financing and planning to make the roads possible. The term “corridor” has always stuck with her. Back in the 90’s, “corridor” was a modern term commonly used to describe multiple modes of transportation to move people, such as highways, rail and buses.
The San Joaquin Hills Transportation Corridor was the start of a link between South County and coastal cities and it has proven to be a valuable route. Although over time the name changed to the 73 Toll Road to reflect what the public called the new route, to Mom, it will always be the “corridor.”
In celebrating this milestone, I’ve learned to appreciate how the “corridor” enhanced the quality of life in Orange County by cutting commute times, reducing rush-hour frustration and making Southern California destinations more accessible. In those 20 years while the county continued to grow and expand, the “corridor” has always served the same purpose – trips on the 73 Toll Road have more than doubled in 20 years, logging nearly 31 million transactions last year. It’s hard to imagine what traffic would be like in Orange County without the 73 Toll Road!
So on my drive home when I call Mom tonight, I’ll smile when she asks if I’m driving the corridor and I’ll proudly respond, “yes, Mom, I’m cruising the corridor home today.”