The Toll Roads Fans Spread The Love

Facebook Giveaway Main GraphicIn February, we showed our love for our drivers by giving away $50 in free toll credits to four lucky winners.

To be eligible to win, we asked drivers to “Like” The Toll Roads on Facebook and leave a comment on the page explaining what they love most about driving The Toll Roads.

We received more than one thousand entries and were overjoyed reading the comments.

One driver shared that she’s been driving the 241 Toll Road every day for the past 10 years to avoid traffic on her commute. While The Toll Roads save her time, what she loves most about her drive is the view. In spring, the hills are green and flowers are growing and in the winter the mountain tops in the distance are covered in snow. In her day-to day-routine of city life, she told us her daily view of nature relaxes her and it’s what she loves most about her drive every morning.

We received many comments from drivers sharing how The Toll Roads help them get to their destination on time with less stress and home to their families quicker at the end of a long day. The heart below displays the words used most in the responses we received.

Love Your Drive Word Cloud

Drivers also said:

  • “I love the fact that it gets me to my grandkids faster. I spend less time on the road and get more time with them.”
  • “Light traffic, and the view of Catalina Island from the 73 can’t be beat!”
  • “I love it when I work longer than usual and get stuck right at the worst traffic times, then that feeling you get when you can hop on The Toll Road and breeze on through.”
  • “There’s nothing like arriving home on a Friday evening in a stress free, relaxed mood after a long week of work!”

 

Thank you to all of our drivers who entered. We work hard everyday to ensure that you love your drive.

Why Dirt Matters

BeforeMost people don’t think twice about roads, bridges or tunnels; at least not about how the structures were built or the materials that were used to construct them. And most people certainly don’t think about dirt or give dirt the credit it deserves. Dirt matters – everything around us is supported by dirt, soil or rock.

The Transportation Corridor Agencies (TCA) is celebrating National Engineers Week (Feb. 21 – 27) by recognizing its engineering team on Facebook and celebrating how engineers make a difference in our communities. Paul Bopp and Juliet Su, both engineering managers at TCA, recently participated in the 2nd annual Girl’s Engineering Day – Transporting the Future – at Dale Junior High School in Anaheim.

AfterHosted by WTS Orange County, an organization dedicated to the professional advancement of women in transportation; Transportation YOU, an interactive mentoring program that offers young girls ages 13-18 an introduction to a wide variety of transportation careers; and the Anaheim Unified School District, more than 100 young women, grades 7 to 12, from 16 schools participated in a fun and informative day introducing them to engineering and engineering-related fields.

Paul and Juliet led the Geotechnical Engineering station, providing an overview of why dirt matters; why foundations are critical to transportation projects; and how to select the best foundation to match the project soil conditions. Geotechnical engineering is a branch of civil engineering that deals with soil and rock and their relation to the design, construction and operation of engineering projects. Nearly all civil engineering projects, including roads, bridges and tunnels, must be supported by the ground and require geotechnical engineering. In short, dirt matters – for our future and growth of infrastructure.

Geotechnical2Students used wood blocks and sticks to serve as foundations and pile supports in trays of sand and clay to compare how foundations behave with and without pile supports in each type of soil.

“It was incredibly rewarding to participate in Girls Engineering Day,” said Juliet Su. “In an industry where men largely outnumber women, it’s a wonderful opportunity to introduce the world of engineering and shape the mind, goals, and future of a young woman.”

Everything around us is supported by dirt, soil or rock and geotechnical engineers are responsible for ensuring that. Paul and Juliet’s hope is that these students become our next generation of civil engineers; but for now we’ll never doubt dirt’s importance – or look at a road, bridge or tunnel the same way. Visit facebook.com/TheTollRoads to read more and learn fun facts about TCA’s engineers.

GED Group Photo2

 

Community Ascertainment Study Findings

In April 2015, the Foothill/Eastern Transportation Corridor Agency (F/ETCA) retained Sharon Browning and Associates to conduct a community ascertainment study to gather input and gain insight on how best to collaborate to address regional mobility challenges in South Orange County. The scope of the study was designed to develop an understanding of the community’s definitions of the problem; priorities to be considered in proposing solutions; and preferences for process, planning and decision making.

In-person, confidential interviews were conducted with 45 residents and active community leaders — excluding elected officials — in cities and unincorporated areas in South Orange County. Topics of discussion included Interstate 5 (I-5)  mobility challenges, describing the problem, exploring solutions including a need or no need for a State Route 241/I-5 connections, who should lead planning efforts and how planning should be led and exploring the need for consensus.

Below is a brief summary and analysis of the findings that will assist in developing a plan for achieving a consensus.

  • The study analyzed the contents of each interview to identify areas of high agreement and areas of lack of agreement, in order for the F/ETCA to focus on areas of agreement in future regional traffic solution planning, particularly around relieving traffic on the I-5 corridor.
  • The environment of the study included discussion around existing I-5 construction, the Avenida La Pata extension, and the local culture, political perspective, values and practices of each community.
  • The study found high agreement in the community that excessive traffic congestion exists along the I-5, north and south from Oso Parkway to Cristianitos Road on weekends, during peak usage times and when accidents occur. The study confirmed the community is greatly concerned about this problem because of its negative impacts on quality of life.
  • The study revealed the community is looking for increased engagement and choices at the local level.
  • The study revealed that the community may not expect 100 percent consensus, rather an open, collaborative problem-solving process led by elected officials with community input.

A full report of the community ascertainment study may be viewed in full here.

Adorable 5-Year Old Enjoys The Drive

Enjoy the DriveThe Toll Roads of Orange County recently launched a new creative campaign, “Enjoy the Drive,” that highlights the reasons people drive The Toll Roads – a stress-free drive on open roads and predictable commutes.

With more than 735,000 FasTrak® and ExpressAccount® customers, there is sure to be many more reasons to Enjoy The Drive. Anticipation of hearing the FasTrak transponder beep? Not seeing any red tail lights? Or how about counting down the numbered exits to your favorite destination?

Sebs_5th_Bday_2Meet Sebastian – a just-turned-5-year old from Newport Beach who loves all things transportation – roads, bridges, signs, toll plazas and the 73 Toll Road.

As Sebastian’s fifth birthday approached, his mom, Briana Vartanian, asked him what theme he wanted and his answer came as no surprise – at least not to his family – The Toll Roads.

As mom puts it, Sebastian is fascinated with engineering and he fell in love with the 73 Toll Road when he started preschool last year at St. Margaret’s Episcopal School in San Juan Capistrano. As a FasTrak accountholder for 12 years, the 73 Toll Road was a no-brainer for their daily commute to and from school.

IMG_5357Driving the 73 Toll Road multiple times a day, five days a week, Sebastian grew to learn, familiarize and literally Enjoy The Drive on The Toll Roads. He’s studied the map, locations of ramps and toll plazas, and with his stop watch, tracks how long it takes to get to and from school and compares the data from day to day. And if you ask Sebastian which exit is his favorite; well number 12 of course, because that’s where he takes his golf lessons.

As the party planning began, TCA’s Communications department received one of its most unique calls to-date – party favors for a toll road themed birthday party. We were happy to participate and thrilled someone outside the office shares a passion for the roads as much as staff. We sent a handful of giveaways and favors and could hardly wait to see the party’s pictures.

IMG_5326Briana spent two months planning Sebastian’s transportation and highway themed birthday party creating custom cupcake toppers with The Toll Roads logo and center pieces highlighting each Toll Road in Orange County. She also hired a balloon artist to create a custom arch – or pseudo toll plaza – complete with The Toll Roads signs overhead. The icing on the cake, all of Sebastian’s friends painted their own version of the Interstate 5 highway sign because Sebastian was turning five, just like the I-5.

Sebastian’s enthusiasm for The Toll Roads gives us at The Transportation Corridor Agencies reason to smile. We realize our 51-miles of open road don’t just offer you nonstop driving, it provides you a choice to get home to your family faster, be the first to arrive to work on a Monday morning, and simply, Enjoy The Drive.

Tell us how you Enjoy The Drive in the comment section below and check out our Enjoy The Drive campaign’s video. Happy Birthday, Sebastian, and cheers to many more happy moments on The Toll Roads of Orange County!

Sebs_5th_Bday_1

$1.4 Billion Refinancing Improves Long-Term Debt Structure for 73 Toll Road

TCA Spring 2011The San Joaquin Hills Transportation Corridor Agency has successfully refinanced $1.4 billion of its $2.2 billion in outstanding debt issued to fund construction of the 73 Toll Road.

“This is great news for drivers and the communities that surround the 73 Toll Road,” said Scott Schoeffel, Chairman of the San Joaquin Hills Transportation Corridor Agency, the joint powers authority responsible for financing the 73 Toll Road. “Refinancing improves the agency’s long-term financial health by lowering the annual debt service payments and improving financial flexibility.”

The bond issue was well received by the market with $2.5 billion in orders for a bond issue sized at $1.4 billion reflecting the 73 toll road’s performance, rating upgrade and confidence in the credit profile.

By taking advantage of the current low interest rates, and selling bonds with a nominal maturity of 2050 compared to the current 2042, the annual debt service growth is reduced from 8.8 to 1.7 percent over the next ten years. The interest rate on the restructured bonds averages 4.74 percent. The previous average was 5.72 percent – a reduction of nearly 100 basis points.

5809896002_b3709940fd_z“The combination of low interest rates, improved credit rating, and strong investor response resulted in a net present value savings of $44 million,” said Amy Potter, Chief Financial Officer for the Transportation Corridor Agencies.

“With this new long-term sustainable debt structure and conservative growth outlook for the 73 Toll Road, the agency will have greater financial flexibility moving forward which may allow the agency to moderate future toll rate increases, withstand economic downturns and potentially pay off the debt ahead of the 2050 final maturity date,” said Michael Kraman, Chief Executive Officer for the Transportation Corridor Agencies.

The sale is scheduled to close in early November and consisted of:

  • $1.1 billion in tax-exempt Senior Lien Current Interest Toll Road Revenue Bonds, with a 1.3-times coverage ratio requirement.

  • $300 million in tax-exempt Current Interest Junior Lien Toll Road Refunding Revenue Bonds, with a 1.1-times coverage ratio requirement.

Standard & Poor’s and Fitch Ratings have rated the agency’s Senior Lien Bonds BBB- and the Junior Lien Bonds BB+. Both ratings are higher than the agency’s previous ratings.

FULL CLOSURE: NORTHBOUND 241 TOLL ROAD

Caltrans will be performing a FULL CLOSURE of the northbound 241 Toll Road from Antonio Parkway to Santa Margarita Parkway on the following nights this week for pavement profiling in advance of the resurfacing of the roadway.

During these times the northbound 241 Toll Road onramp from Antonio Parkway will also be closed.

The closure hours are as follows:

  • Wednesday (9/10/14) from 9 p.m. until 5 a.m. Thursday morning.
  • Thursday (9/11/14) from 9 p.m. until 5 a.m. Friday morning.
  • Friday (9/12/14) from 10 p.m. until 6 a.m. Saturday morning.

DETOUR:  All northbound 241 Toll Road traffic will be routed off at the northbound Antonio Parkway off ramp.  Traffic will then be directed left onto Antonio, right on Avenida Empresa and right onto Santa Margarita Parkway where they can re-enter the northbound 241 Toll Road at the Santa Margarita Parkway northbound onramp.

 

 

TRANSITION PROGRAM REMAINS IN PLACE TO EASE DRIVER CONVERSION TO ALL-ELECTRONIC TOLL COLLECTION

Road Entry No CashAfter cash toll collection ended on Orange County’s toll roads on May 14, a program was implemented to ease drivers’ transition to the new all-electronic toll collection system. The transition program — originally put in place through the long Labor Day weekend — has been extended as The Toll Roads continue to evaluate data about usage, payments, feedback from customers and reports from customer service representatives.

“We will keep the transition program in place while we monitor how drivers are using the roads as summer winds down, tourism lightens and many people get back to their commuting routines,” said Mike Kraman, acting CEO of The Toll Roads. “We also want to keep the transition program in place as we make improvements to our customer service functions to better serve our customers.”

As part of the transition program:
• Penalty fees for first-time violations are waived if the tolls incurred are paid within 30 days of receiving a notice of toll evasion. Approximately 40 percent of violation notices are sent to people who have never before received a violation notice.

• Drivers without a pre-established tolling account can pay tolls online within seven days after driving the roads using the One-Time-Toll™ payment option. One-Time-Toll was developed to be used within 48 hours of driving the roads. Data is being reviewed to determine if the One-Time-Toll payment timeframe will be extended permanently.

The following improvements have been (or are being) implemented:
• Additional road signs have been installed. There are now 414 signs on the roadway informing drivers that they are on a tolled road; that cash is not accepted; that tolls can be paid electronically via a pre-established account or online using the One-Time-Toll payment option; and that a violation will be issued if tolls are not paid.
• Information about the closure of cash booths and how to pay online has been added to changeable message signs located on freeways leading to The Toll Roads.
• Information about the penalty relief for first-time violations is inserted into first-time violation notices. The notice also includes information about how to sign up for a FasTrak® or ExpressAccount® for future trips.
• To support the conversion, 14 employees were added to the customer service department. Six additional temporary customer service representatives have been added and 20 more are in the process of being added.
• Forty-six additional phone lines are being added to the customer call center. To accommodate callers.
• Adjustments have been made to information on the website to address common questions.
• Outreach programs to the general public; Spanish-speaking community; tourism industry; rental car agencies; seniors; college campuses; and military are being expanded and revamped as needed.

OTT To Avoid VioApproximately 250,000 people drive The Toll Roads every day as a way to avoid traffic congestion and save time. A majority of customers — 91 percent — pay with either a FasTrak, ExpressAccount or with the One-Time-Toll online payment feature. Since May 14, 65,269 ExpressAccounts® have been opened and 440,267 drivers have paid using One-Time-Toll™

Five ways to pay tolls on The Toll Roads:
1. FasTrak: Establish a prepaid account, pay tolls that are $1 less than all other drivers pay and receive a transponder that allows you to pay tolls electronically on every tolled bridge, lane and road in California.
2. Charge ExpressAccount: Establish an account with no prepayment. Drive The Toll Roads and your daily tolls are charged to your credit card. You cannot use this account to pay tolls on any other bridge, lane or road.
3. Invoice ExpressAccount: Establish an account with no prepayment. Drive The Toll Roads and, at the end of the month, receive an invoice for your accumulated tolls. This account includes an invoice fee. You cannot use this account to pay tolls on any other bridge, lane or road.
4. Prepaid ExpressAccount: Establish a prepaid account. Drive The Toll Roads and tolls are deducted from your prepaid account. You cannot use this account to pay tolls on any other bridge, lane or roads.
5. One-Time-Toll payment option: Drive The Toll Roads and within 48 hours after your drive, use our website or free app to pay your toll(s) with a credit card.

 

E-ZPass Phishing Scam Alert

Credit: 9news.com

Credit: 9news.com

Phishing Scam Alert: There is a phishing email* being sent to drivers across the nation claiming they owe money for unpaid E-ZPass tolls.  This is not an email from The Toll Roads, the Transportation Corridor Agencies, E-ZPass or E-ZPass tolling agencies. E-ZPass is used to collect tolls electronically on the East Coast; FasTrak is used to collect tolls electronically on the West Coast.

Please do not open or respond to the email if you receive it. To see an example of the email, please click here.

*Phishing emails, websites and phone calls are designed to steal money.  Cybercriminals can do this by installing malicious software on your computer or stealing personal information off of your computer.  To report a phishing email, forward it to: phishing-report@us-cert.gov.

The Toll Roads Update: All-Electronic Toll Collection

IMG_9176_WebWe’ve implemented a program to help drivers transition to all-electronic toll collection, which went into effect on May 14 when cash toll collection was removed from The Toll Roads (State Routes 73, 133, 241 and 261).

Through Labor Day, The Toll Roads are waiving penalty fees for first-time violators.  First-time violators will receive a notice of toll evasion in the mail with instructions for how to pay the toll online, without having to pay penalty.  The toll must be paid online within 30 days of receiving the notice of toll evasion.

Violators are drivers who use The Toll Roads without making an attempt to pay their toll(s).  Everyday 250,000 people drive The Toll Roads – and most of them pay their tolls with FasTrak or an ExpressAccount.

IMG_9164_WebFor infrequent trips, the One-Time-Toll payment option allows drivers to use The Toll Roads without an account and pay the toll online at thetollroads.com or via The Toll Roads’ free app within 48 hours after using the roads to avoid a violation.

To help all drivers transition to all-electronic toll collection, The Toll Roads have hired 10 additional customer service representatives to work in the Customer Call Center.  With 14 customer service representatives added to the call center before May 14, there will soon be a total of 54 representatives helping customers in four languages.

Out on the roads, 236 new signs were posted with the conversion to cash-less tolling — of those, 111 are for One-Time-Toll drivers.  Additional signs are being added and will include flashing lights to better alert drivers to changes and how to pay tolls.

CALIFORNIA’S FIRST SUCCESSFUL NATIVE HABITAT RESTORATION ON A CLOSED LANDFILL CELEBRATES 20TH ANNIVERSARY

Landfill Beauty ShotTwenty years ago, the Transportation Corridor Agencies (TCA) made history when they planted 122 acres of coastal sage scrub on the former Coyote Canyon Landfill in Newport Beach, Calif.  It was the first time that native habitat for an endangered species had ever been planted on a closed landfill.  Today, it is a thriving habitat that supports native wildlife and requires no maintenance.

“Coyote Canyon proves to everyone that habitat restoration that is carefully planned and flawlessly executed can produce great results. It truly is one of the great environmental success stories in Orange County,” said Rush Hill, mayor of Newport Beach and chairman of the San Joaquin Hills Transportation Corridor Agency.

Central Orange County’s solid waste was disposed of at the Coyote Canyon Landfill for 27 years (1963 to 1990).  During that time, more than 60 million cubic yards of waste were buried on approximately 395 acres. Since 1982, the gas produced by the decomposing waste has been fueling electricity production and currently generates roughly seven megawatts of power, supplying electricity for at least 6,000 homes for 32 years.

When it closed in 1990, Coyote Canyon Landfill’s closure plan was the first in the nation to include specifications to create habitat for a federally-listed bird species, the California gnatcatcher.  The landfill was designated as a special linkage for birds and animals between the San Joaquin Hills and Upper Newport Bay in the Nature Reserve of Orange County’s Natural Community Conservation Plan.

“TCA spearheaded the restoration of the Coyote Canyon Landfill as mitigation for construction of the 73 Toll Road and because it is a critical part of a comprehensive plan to provide a wildlife link from the Back Bay to the San Joaquin Hills,” added Hill.  “The goal was to establish a resilient habitat that needed no maintenance after initial establishment.”

Margo on LandfillCoastal sage scrub — a low-growing, aromatic and drought-deciduous shrub found in coastal California — developed across the landfill after seeding in the fall of 1994.  Because coastal sage scrub includes deep-rooting plants, four and a half feet of soil was added on top of the Coyote Canyon Landfill to accommodate the habitat.  Soil monitoring was conducted to ensure the native plants’ moisture and roots did not negatively affect the landfill’s clay cap and gas recovery system.  The monitoring and resulting reports were the first demonstration in the southwest U.S. that native vegetation could be planted and maintained without compromising a landfill closure cover or gas recovery system.

Listed as “Threatened” by the federal government in 1993, the California gnatcatcher is a small, non-migratory bird that frequents dense coastal sage scrub.  The first California gnatcatcher pair arrived at the Coyote Canyon Landfill ahead of schedule — just two years after the habitat was planted. By 1999, the site’s fifth year, fifteen pairs of California gnatcatchers were successfully breeding in the habitat; 58 percent produced one brood successfully and 33 percent successfully produced two broods. These percentages were comparable to other populations in the region and the Coyote Canyon Landfill habitat was deemed acceptable as mitigation for the California gnatcatcher.

The coastal sage scrub habitat has met all federal permit requirements and the performance standards established by the Biological Opinion issued by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for the 73 Toll Road.

TCA is comprised of two joint powers authorities formed by the California legislature in 1986 to plan, finance, construct and operate Orange County’s 67-mile public toll road system in the most environmentally sensitive way possible.

Gnatcatcher BirdTCA has conserved and restored 15 locations in Orange County. Hundreds of birds and animals – including the California gnatcatcher – have found a safe home on TCA’s more than 2,100 acres of coastal sage scrub, wetlands, riparian and salt-water marsh.  At least 75 baby gnatcatchers, more than 40 species of birds, five species of rodents, 13 invertebrates and larger mammals such as coyote, bobcat and mountain lions utilize TCA’s habitat mitigation areas.

Since 1996, TCA has been a proud participant and active contributor to the Central/Coastal Natural Community Conservation Plan (NCCP), a reserve created to set aside 38,783 acres of prime habitat in Orange County for 42 individual species. During the three years it took to create the plan, TCA contributed its mitigation sites to the reserve and provided $6.6 million of a $10 million endowment, which funds the ongoing management of the reserve. The goal of the NCCP is to conserve native animal and plant species while continuing to allow appropriate development and growth. An estimated 699 acres of TCA’s mitigation areas are included within the reserve and the agencies plan to continue participation through ongoing oversight of the preserved lands.