Cruising the Corridor: Celebrating the 73 Toll Road’s 25th Anniversary

By: Bradley, Communications Intern

This month, the 73 Toll Road celebrates its silver anniversary, 25 strong and influential years that have helped improve mobility in the region. As a 22-year-old, I’ve never known Orange County without the 73 and now I get to be part of its success story as an intern for The Toll Roads.

Growing up in Huntington Beach, getting to my grandparents’ house in San Clemente was always an adventure. Dad would drive us down Pacific Coast Highway so we could see the ocean and listen to the waves when we stopped at traffic signals. Mom got tired of this because our drive through beach cities would be congested by constant commuter or weekend traffic. For a while, their only other option was the dreaded 405, and if we were going to sit in traffic, we might as well have been near the beach. Their patience waned quickly as the commute to my grandparents turned into a parking lot.

In the summer of ‘96, drivers like my parents were listening to hits on the radio like “Everybody (Backstreet’s Back)” and “Just a Girl” by the Backstreet Boys and local legends No Doubt, respectively. The movie Independence Day starring Will Smith, set box office records and became the year’s highest grossing film. That same summer, on July 20, the Transportation Corridor Agencies (TCA) invited residents of Orange County to “Cruise the Corridor” as they celebrated the opening of the first phase of the 73. The new segment was a seven-mile stretch of a corridor that would ultimately take drivers 15 miles from Interstate 5 near Laguna Niguel/San Juan Capistrano to Newport Beach, providing a new transportation alternative to I-5 and I-405.

The entire 73 — and the other 36 miles of state routes that make up The Toll Roads — have always been part of the driving experience for me and anyone else who started driving in the mid-90s. Since their opening, The Toll Roads have been providing a much-needed, stress-free alternative to Orange County’s gridlock thoroughfares and arterials. I’m glad I never got to see how bad traffic would be without them.

One day, on a trip to my grandparents’ house, Dad decided to take the 405. As we approached Metro Point, he turned onto a 73 Toll Road on-ramp, a way I’d never been before. To my surprise, the new road was a blast. We drove through Newport Beach, Irvine and Aliso Viejo before popping up on I-5 near San Juan Capistrano — it was the fastest we’d ever made it to their house. The drive was revolutionary; it completely changed how we drove to see my family. Each trip I eagerly anticipated being able to look out the car window to see low-flying Boeing 747s, the rolling chaparral hills, listening to hits on the radio and, of course, looking forward to seeing grandma and grandpa. As a kid, you don’t think about time saved. Now, I appreciate the drive and take everything in as I cruise down the 73, only now, with an added appreciation of the time I save.

In celebration of 25 sensational years, I look back and remind myself how grateful I am to have such fond memories cruising the corridor to my grandparents’ house. Memories which, just like I, have only lived in a world that has known the 73 Toll Road.

In celebration of the 73 Toll Road’s 25th anniversary, The Toll Roads created a playlist that takes drivers back to the summer of ’96 as they cruise the corridor.

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