Blog Archives

91 Express Lanes Extended by 8 Miles

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.

Paying Tolls:

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.

More Information:

91ExpressLanes.com/general-info/

 

 

Cruising the Corridor in the Summer of 1996

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).

Cruise the Corridor collageThis 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 of00010004 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.”

The Toll Roads: Where to Go & What to Know

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:

FasTrak_throughout_CADon’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.

MobileAppBpngPaying 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.

RentalCarMapCalculate 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.

$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.

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.

 

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.

FREE COMMUNITY EXPO THIS SATURDAY!

Coyote_Canyon_Flyer

RAMP DETOUR NOTICE: NB 241 TOLL ROAD AT PORTOLA PKWY-IRVINE

241-Detour

WHERE WILL THE TOLL ROADS TAKE YOU THIS WEEKEND?

Don’t have plans for this weekend?  Take the 73 Toll Road to one of these great events…

 

1010711_10152310122714029_4791705516170350084_nNewport Beach Film Festival, Newport Beach

April 24 – May 1

newportbeachfilmfest.com

The Newport Beach Film Festival seeks to bring to Orange County the best of classic and contemporary filmmaking from around the world. The Festival focuses on showcasing a diverse collection of both studio and independent films. This year’s festival features Lovesick, A Five Star Life and Jon Favreau’s Chef.

 

girl2California Wine Festival Orange County, Dana Point

April 25 – 26

californiawinefestival.com

Experience quintessential California wine tasting and enjoy hundreds of the state’s finest vintage wines, delicious gourmet foods samples and lively music. Discover new wines, find a new favorite and pair it with a variety of fresh gourmet appetizers like artisan breads, cheeses, olive oils and so much more. Enjoy an afternoon of unlimited fun, food and music at the biggest wine festival under the sun.

 

13Spring Garden Show at South Coast Plaza, Costa Mesa

April 24 – 27

southcoastplaza.com

South Coast Plaza’s Annual Southern California Spring Garden Show transforms South Coast Plaza into a gardening oasis that showcases a diverse and outstanding selection of unusual and exotic plants, garden tools, garden ornaments and art, display gardens and children’s programs. This year’s show features, an informative speaker series and appearance by John Gidding, architect, interior designer and HGTV’s Curb Appeal co-host.

 

And, save the date for our upcoming event right off the 73 Toll Road…

Free Community Expo, Coyote Canyon, Newport Beach

May 17, 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.

https://www.thetollroads.com/assets/objects/45/Coyote_Canyon_Flyer.pdf

CoyoteCanyon2The Toll Roads are joining with the County of Orange, the City of Newport Beach and other partners to host a free, family-friendly public expo to celebrate two decades of environmental excellence. The expo is open to all and includes fun educational booths and discussions on the science, technology, engineering, arts and math (STEAM) used to operate this landfill during its post-closure process, including multi-use designs for gas recovery and native habitat restoration.

Directions: From State Route 73: Exit Newport Coast Drive and head south past Sage Hill High School. Turn right at the traffic signal to arrive at the destination.   From Pacific Coast Highway: Take PCH to Newport Coast Drive and make a legal U-turn at Turtle Crest Drive. Pass Sage Hill High School and make a right at the traffic signal to arrive at the destination.

 

 

RED FLAG WARNING ISSUED FOR ORANGE COUNTY

CMS WordingOrange County is currently experiencing Red Flag conditions, meaning that fire danger is high.  When fire danger is high, like it is today, The Toll Roads take a proactive approach to preventing wildfires through education and encouraged vigilance. 

Keep the following motorist safety tips in mind during Red Flag conditions:

DON’T PULL OVER:  Don’t pull over to the side of the road unless absolutely necessary, especially onto dry grass or brush. Hot exhaust pipes and mufflers can start fires that you won’t see, until it’s too late!

DON’T SMOKE:  Don’t smoke when driving and never throw a lit cigarette or burning match out of a car.

NO SPARKS:  Sparks from dragging equipment on vehicles or faulty catalytic converters, especially on older trucks on uphill grades, ignite fires. Make vehicle safety upgrades as needed.

REPORT:  Keep a cell phone nearby and call 911 immediately in case of a fire. Many wildland fires are caused by arson.  Report suspicious activity to the OC Fire Authority Arson Tip Line at 1-800-540-8282.

Planter Sign PhotoOn The Toll Roads, during Red Flag conditions, changeable message signs and special toll plaza planter signs carry a warning.  We also provide the above motorist tips for fire safety and prevention via our blog, website, Facebook and Twitter.

We do all of this because we are part OC Fire Watch. Led by Orange County’s Fifth District Supervisor Patricia C. Bates, the Orange County Fire Authority and Orange County Parks, OC Fire Watch is a countywide program to alert the public when fire dangers are elevated.

More information on OC Fire Watch, including how residents can get involved in the program, can be found at www.OCFireWatch.org.