If you’ve driven the 241 Toll Road at or near Oso Parkway in Rancho Santa Margarita, you’ve seen Upper Chiquita Canyon Conservation Area (UCCCA); you probably even smiled to admire such a rare sight – open space in Orange County.
UCCCA is the Transportation Corridor Agencies’ (TCA) largest mitigation site. At 1,158 acres, seven Disneyland’s could fit within its boundaries.
Here, you’re surrounded by rolling hills of coastal sage scrub, patches of Prickly Pear Cactus, tiny coastal California Gnatcatchers, and families of deer.
TCA’s Upper Chiquita Canyon Conservation Area was originally planned for residential development and a golf course; however, in 1996, TCA, in partnership with environmental organizations and the resource agencies, placed the nearly 1,200 acres of land into permanent open space. Conservation of UCCCA plays a critical role in supporting and providing habitat for the federally listed California gnatcatcher and coastal cactus wren. The site also provides valuable connectivity for wildlife movement between O’Neill Regional Park and Chiquita Ridge to the south.
The next time you drive The Toll Roads (State Routes 73, 133, 241 and 261), enjoy the view (and the perks of congestion-free travel!). Most of the slopes and hills adjacent to The Toll Roads were planted with native habitat to blend seamlessly into the surrounding landscape. Thriving native plants have been weaned off supplemental water and fertilizer for decades.
UCCCA is just one of TCA’s 17 open spaces that have been conserved over the past 25 years. Check back soon to see what happens when we provide exclusive access to UCCCA to nearly 40 Plein Air artists to celebrate Earth Day. We can’t wait to see what vibrant and colorful news this spring will bring!
We go together like peas and carrots; green eggs and ham, John Lennon and Yoko Ono. But toll roads and preserving the environment? Yes, it’s true. (Cue the screeching brakes of car coming to a halt.)
The Transportation Corridor Agencies (TCA) does more than operate Orange County’s 51-miles of toll roads. TCA protects the natural resources of more than 2,100 acres of habitat and open space in 17 locations. 2,100 acres – that’s about two-and-a-half times as big as New York City’s Central Park!
In the 1970s, when Earth Day was getting underway, studies showed the need for new roads to serve Orange County’s growing population. By 1981, the future routes for what would become The Toll Roads, were roughly sketched onto county road plans. By 1990, TCA was working with the Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, California Coastal Commission, California Department of Fish and Wildlife and the Federal Highway Administration to secure environmental approvals and permits outlining the mitigation and restoration needed to move forward with construction.
Along The Toll Roads, nature’s bright show has been more than 25 years in the making. The slopes and nearby hillsides were first seeded with a mix of native plants back when The Toll Roads first opened. Custom seed mixes designed for each slope’s sun and moisture conditions sprouted into the mix of wildflowers, sages and shrubs seen today. The sustenance of the area’s California gnatcatcher population over decades is one way we know the planning and planting were successful. Today, the small birds nest in sagebrush and eat insects attracted to the wildflowers and other plants. The colorful spring views for drivers along The Toll Roads are just a beautiful bonus.
Check out our Environmental Initiatives to learn how TCA has replanted native vegetation, restored habitats for threatened species, conducted scientific studies, removed invasive and non-native plants and improved waterways and creeks.
In case you missed it, here is some recent news reports about The Toll Roads:
What to say when you hear nobody drives The Toll Roads? Fake news! The Orange County Register highlights The Toll Roads’ record breaking year with ridership increasing nearly 20 percent during the last three years. Traffic may be bad on OC’s freeways, but more than 300,000 daily drivers are finding relief on the 73, 133, 241 and 261 Toll Roads.
Wondering where the tolls you pay go? Paying off construction debt. Because of the strong ridership and revenue growth, the Transportation Corridor Agencies, the government agency overseeing operations of Orange County’s 51-miles of Toll Roads, are on solid financial ground.
So much so, that the Orange County Business Journal is calling it a Toll Road Turnaround. OCBJ lists the top 10 largest issuers of municipal debt in Orange County – the Foothill/Eastern Transportation Corridor Agency, responsible for the 133, 241 and 261 Toll Roads, and the San Joaquin Hills Transportation Corridor Agency, responsible for the 73 Toll Road – ranked the top two. The key takeaway? “The result is that The Toll Roads handily meet debt their debt obligations. Plus, the TCA has more than $1 billion in reserves in case of shortfalls,” reports OCBJ.
TCA’s Fiscal Year 2017 Annual Report highlights record-setting days on The Toll Roads when ridership reached numbers never-before-seen in TCA’s 25-year history. For example, what typically falls in the middle of June? Celebrating Dads and Grads!
Last year, Saturday, June 17, was a record high Saturday with 243,615 transactions and Monday, June 19, was a record high Monday with 306,382 transactions. Combined, that’s more than 12 times the amount of daily Disneyland visitors!
Check out more fun facts about ridership by viewing our In The Driver’s Seat information series.
“More people are using Orange County’s Toll Roads every day. The value our roads as an alternative to Orange County’s congested freeways is underscored by how many trips were taken and accounts opened in Fiscal Year 2017,” said Mike Kraman, TCA’s CEO. “The growth in revenue is a sign of a healthy economy and allows us to maintain a strong financial position and continue to invest in The Toll Roads.”
If only there were more hours in the day – to spend time with family, read a book, cook a meal, binge watch TV or, better yet, catch some ZZZzzs. It’s too bad, we’re spending more time behind the wheel instead of doing what we want.
According to the Global Traffic Scorecard, an annual study by transportation analytics company Inrix, in 2017, Southern California commuters experienced the most gridlock in the world. The. World.
Thankfully, there is the 73, 133, 241 and 261 Toll Roads as an option to avoid Orange County’s congested freeways. Not just for commuters, The Toll Roads are also great for day trips and weekend getaways.
Heading to Newport Beach? Jump on the 73 Toll Road and bypass all the traffic on the 405 Freeway while you enjoy scenic views. Traveling from Corona to the Irvine Spectrum? Take the 241 and 133 Toll Roads and get there in half the time.
What’s not to love about getting to your destination quicker and with an ETA you can safely predict? For this Valentine’s Day, you don’t have to skip the flowers or chocolate; drive The Toll Roads and arrive on time to meet your Valentine.
An upgrade to The Toll Roads’ online toll payment option allows drivers who don’t have an existing account to pay online with just a vehicle license plate number. This means drivers no longer need to input where they entered and exited The Toll Roads in order to calculate their toll.
The new system feature is particularly helpful to visitors and those driving The Toll Roads for the first time — and those who only make 2-3 trips a year and choose not to have an account. . Instead of remembering the details of their trip, drivers can use the option to and let the system present the tolls due.
“All you have to do is enter your license plate number and dates of travel online and we’ll calculate the tolls for you,” said Lisa Telles, Chief Communications Officer for the Transportation Corridor Agencies. “We wanted to make it easier than ever for people traveling through Orange County to drive the largest toll road network in California.”
Cameras capture the license plates of vehicles traveling on The Toll Roads. When a driver inputs a license plate number, the online payment system scans the database to identify any unpaid tolls for the date range specified. Once payment is processed, drivers receive a detailed statement with their trip details listed. Drivers who choose to can still use the original method by selecting “I’ll Calculate My Tolls” and enter specific trip details to pay their tolls.
Drivers have five days to pay tolls online, through The Toll Roads mobile app or by phone after driving the 73, 133, 241 and 261 Toll Roads. Users access the online payment system from TheTollRoads.com by choosing “Pay Toll Now.”
Paying tolls for a rental car is even easier. The Toll Roads of Orange County partner with most major rental car companies to allow tolls to be paid through car rental agreements. This minimizes the need to remember paying the toll and removes the potential of a rental car customer receiving a violation from the Toll Roads. Check with individual rental car companies to find out how they bill for tolls and if any additional fees apply.
No matter the reason for a visit to Orange County, driving The Toll Roads is a great way to get there faster and stress-free. Thanks to upgrades to the online payment option, it’s easier than ever for anyone driving The Toll Roads to pay tolls and enjoy driving on 51-miles of congestion-free and stress-free roads.
Tomorrow morning, FasTrak accountholders will have eight new miles to drive when the Riverside segment of the 91 Express Lanes opens for the morning commute.
The new Riverside segment stretches from the Orange/Riverside County Line to 1.) McKinley Street on State Route 91 and 2.) Ontario Avenue on Interstate 15 South. There will not be direct access to Interstate 15 North from the Express Lanes.
Drivers will be able to travel the existing Orange County segment (between State Route 55 and the Orange/Riverside County Line), the new Riverside segment or the two segments combined for 18 miles of time savings. There will be an entry/exit point at the Orange/Riverside County Line.
Use the 91 Express Lanes and 241 Toll Road in the Same Trip:
Westbound State Route 91 drivers can enter the Express Lanes at McKinley Street (State Route 91) or Ontario Avenue (northbound Interstate 15) and exit at the County Line to access the southbound 241 Toll Road.
Northbound 241 Toll Road drivers can enter the eastbound 91 Express Lanes at the County Line to travel the Express Lanes through Corona.
A toll will be charged for each 91 Express Lanes segment used. Overhead signs at every entry point will display the price for traveling a single segment and the full length of the Express Lanes. Toll rates can also be found at 91ExpressLanes.com.
FasTrak Transponder Required:
All vehicles, including carpoolers, must have a properly mounted FasTrak transponder issued by a California toll agency for toll collection. A transponder can be used to pay tolls on every tolled bridge, lane and road in California. Tolls on the 91 Express Lanes cannot be paid via license plate or with cash.
Carpools of three or more wishing to receive the carpool discount on the 91 Express Lanes must have a FasTrak transponder mounted and travel through the designated HOV3+ lane (the far left lane) at the toll points for both the Orange County and Riverside segments to receive the carpool discount.
Additional Project Improvements:
As part of the Riverside County Transportation Commission’s project, a new general purpose lane is being added in both directions on State Route 91 between State Route 71 and Interstate 15. Auxiliary lanes, interchanges, bridges, ramps and local streets have also been improved through Corona and will open in phases.
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.”
School is out, bags are packed and summer vacation has officially begun. But before you hit the road for your family staycation or road trip, here’s a list of the five things you need to know to beat the summer heat and SoCal traffic:
Don’t Forget to Pack Your FasTrak® Transponder – The 73 Toll Road is a popular route for drivers traveling between Los Angeles and San Diego and the 241 Toll Road is a popular route to get to and from the Inland Empire, mountains and deserts to Orange County’s beaches. Be sure you’ve packed your FasTrak transponder before hitting the road. Because not only can you use FasTrak to pay tolls when driving The Toll Roads in Orange County but it also works on all of California’s tolled bridges, lanes and roads.
Paying Tolls Without an Account? There’s An App for That. – The Toll Roads recently released a new and improved mobile app allowing you to pay tolls on the 73, 133, 241 and 261 Toll Roads in the palm of your hand if you don’t have an account. Download the latest version of The Toll Roads’ app by searching “the toll roads” in the Google Play and Apple App Stores and enjoy a stress-free drive in Orange County. You can also compare account types and sign up with the updated app.
Paying Tolls With a Rental Car is Now Easier than Ever – The Toll Roads have partnered with most major rental car companies to simplify toll payments by allowing tolls to be charged directly to your credit card through rental car agreements. The new rental car toll payment program, eligible only on State Routes 73, 133, 241 and 261 in Southern California, eliminates the chance of a rental car customer receiving a Notice of Toll Evasion after they return their rental vehicle. Visit our rental car page to learn more about options for rental car drivers, including steps to take if you’re already a FasTrak or ExpressAccount® customer.
Calculate Your Tolls – Want to know what the cost is for a particular trip? Check out our online toll calculator to easily calculate your toll by selecting the road you will drive; your entry and exit points (choose “unknown” if you are not sure); how you will pay; and type of vehicle. Rates to drive on Orange County’s Toll Roads will increase slightly on Friday, July 1, from one cent to 14 cents, depending on the location and time of travel. The toll calculator webpage also features a downloadable map and rate card.
Hosting Family & Friends? –If you’re hosting out-of-town guests or renting or borrowing a vehicle, be sure to temporarily add the vehicle’s license plate number to your FasTrak or ExpressAccount so they can drive The Toll Road without worrying to pay online.
Safe travels and enjoy your drive on The Toll Roads.
In 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.
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.
The 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?
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.
Driving 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.
Briana 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!