Twenty years later, the 241 Toll Road continues to provide congestion relief for thousands of drivers
The year is 1998 – Bill Clinton is President, Titanic dominates the box office, gas is $1.06 a gallon, Google was just founded, and the first Harry Potter book is released. But, more importantly, a 24-mile segment of the 241 Toll Road, connecting the 91 Freeway to Irvine, opens. This segment provided drivers an alternative route to the congested 55 Freeway when traveling between Orange and Riverside Counties.
At the time, the project was one of the largest design/build contracts in U.S. history and was Orange County’s largest transportation project in a decade. Twenty years later, more than 60 million tolls are collected on the 241 Toll Road each year and it continues to provide congestion relief for hundreds of thousands of drivers every day.
We dug deep in our archives for some great construction photos and here are 20 fun facts to celebrate the 241 Toll Road’s 20th birthday.
The Transportation Corridor Agencies (TCA) – a joint powers authority including the Foothill/Eastern Transportation Corridor Agency and San Joaquin Hills Transportation Corridor Agency – was formed in 1986 to address Southern California’s booming population, worsening traffic conditions and diminishing government funds.
- Due to a lack of state funding, private toll revenue bonds and development impact fee revenue was used to finance and construct Orange County’s Toll Roads. The majority of the tolls collected pay back the debt issued to fund construction.
- The Toll Roads were constructed with wildlife in mind. Natural travel patterns of deer and other wildlife were tracked and monitored to determine the paths they most frequently used. The Toll Roads then built wildlife undercrossings at the locations where the animals travel the most, allowing them to move safely and quickly from point A to point B. One of the busiest wildlife undercrossing in Southern California is under the 241 Toll Road.
- TCA was one of the first agencies in the state to use the design-build method for construction of public roads. The approach combined design and construction simultaneously to reduce the construction duration and cost.
- The first 3.2-mile segment of the 241 Toll Road opened in October 1993 near Foothill Ranch and spanned from Portola North to Portola South. Click here to view when other segments of The Toll Roads opened.
- The legislation that gave TCA permission to collect tolls mandated that tolls be collected electronically, which gave birth to FasTrak®. FasTrak is a system that uses a transponder to exchange information with a roadside computer, automatically deducting tolls from the user’s prepaid account as the vehicle passes through the toll points without slowing.
- Beyond Orange County, you can also use your FasTrak transponder for instant access to all of California’s toll roads, lanes and bridges – even the Golden Gate Bridge.
- TCA was the first toll road operator in the nation to offer a free mobile app for toll account management in 2012. To date, the app has been downloaded more than 1.3 million times to help customers manage their account or pay a toll from their smart phone or tablet.
- During construction of the 241 Toll Road construction site, a TCA contracted biologist rescued a baby golden eagle that was found lost and weak in a temporary construction reservoir. The eagle was nursed back to health and released back into the wild.
- A secret hollow rock, known as Bennet Rock, is perched at the top of a slope just north of the 241 Toll Road bridge over Santiago Creek. The legend is that it was constructed in honor of Jerry Bennet, TCA’s Chief Engineer at the time, who wanted to preserve the natural and unique outcropping along the right-of-way. The rock didn’t survive the earthwork, but the contractors had it recreated just for Jerry.
- The iconic red rock formations on the northbound side of the 241 Toll Road as you approach the 91 Freeway are nicknamed the “Badlands,” as they are reminiscent of the famous South Dakota badlands.
- Santiago Creek Bridge is a 90-foot high bridge and sits at about 735 feet above sea level. The Windy Ridge Toll Point is the highest elevation point along the 241 Toll Road at 1,286 feet.
- Irvine Lake, located near Santiago Canyon and the 241 Toll Road, is a reservoir that was built between 1929 and 1931 and provides drinking water to Villa Park and parts of Orange.
- The 241 Toll Road has three tunnels constructed through the cut and cover process. There are three tunnels on The Toll Roads. The one seen here is located at the northbound 133/241 interchange.
- There are four cell phone towers along the 241 Toll Road. Each tower reaches a height of 105 feet and they were intentionally designed to blend in with the natural landscape.
- There are five mainline toll points on Orange County’s Toll Roads. Tomato Springs Toll Point, closest to Lake Forest, was named after the location of a 1912 posse shootout that took place nearby.
- The 51-miles of Toll Roads – State Routes 73, 133, 241 and 261 – represent 20 percent of Orange County’s highway system and make up the largest network of toll roads in California.
- Tolls are collected three ways on Orange County’s Toll Roads – FasTrak, ExpressAccounts® and one-time online payments.
- On average, 1,000 new FasTrak accounts and ExpressAccounts are opened every day. As of Oct. 31, 2018, the number of open accounts totaled more than 1.37 million.
- The Toll Roads and saving time go hand-in-hand. A weekday rush hour trip from the El Toro “Y” to the Orange/Riverside County Line saves drivers 15 minutes via the 133 and 241 Toll Roads compared to using the 5 and 55 freeways.
With more than 320,000 daily trips on Orange County’s Toll Roads, that’s 320,000 less trips on the already congested 5, 55, and 405 freeways; thereby improving mobility for everyone – even those who don’t use it! The 73, 133, 241 and 261 Toll Roads continue to be the easiest and most predictable way to get to and through Orange County. Happy birthday – and thank you for providing drivers a choice for over 20 years.
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.
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.
After 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.
Approximately 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.
We’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.
For 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.
Beginning Wednesday, May 14 at 12:01 a.m., cash toll collection will cease on The Toll Roads in Orange County, making travel faster and more convenient for the more than 250,000 weekday commuters who choose The Toll Roads.
“Tuesday will be the final day to pay with cash on The Toll Roads,” said Lisa Bartlett, chairwoman of the Foothill/Eastern Transportation Corridor Agency. “The removal of cash tolls is a trend throughout the tolling industry and we’ve surveyed our cash customers to provide new electronic payment options that will work for them.”
In January, the Transportation Corridor Agencies (TCA), which operates The Toll Roads, introduced four new ways to pay tolls to replace cash toll collection. Along with the hugely-popular FasTrak® payment method, the three new ExpressAccount™ types and the new One-Time-Toll™ option make the drive on The Toll Roads fast and convenient.
More than 82 percent of transactions are already paid electronically using a FasTrak or ExpressAccount, while 13 percent are cash transactions.
“We want all customers to experience the benefits of a free-flowing drive that our FasTrak and ExpressAccount customers enjoy,” said Rush Hill, chairman of the San Joaquin Hills Transportation Corridor Agency. “If they haven’t signed up for a FasTrak or ExpressAccount, now is the time to ensure you always have options.”
Tomorrow is also the final day of work for toll attendants, who have worked at the Toll Roads toll plazas since the first plaza opened in 1993. All toll personnel (toll attendants, lead toll attendants, managers, assistant managers, etc.) are contract employees of Central Parking System, the largest parking management firm in the country, operating approximately 700 parking locations in Orange and Los Angeles counties alone. CPS will seek to find alternate employment options for these employees in other company positions in Southern California.
“We honor the service they’ve provided our customers and they have been part of the success of The Toll Roads,” said Chairman Hill.
In just six days cash toll collection will cease on The Toll Roads. Are you ready? If you have FasTrak® or AN ExpressAccount™ the answer is yes.
If you currently pay with cash when you drive State Routes 73, 133, 241 and 261, now is the time to decide how you will pay after 12:01 a.m. on May 14.
There are five ways to pay tolls on The Toll Roads: FasTrak, three new ExpressAccount types and the new One-Time-Toll option. Click here for information about the different account options and to learn which one is right for you.
TCA is offering new FasTrak and ExpressAccount customers a free week of nonstop driving as soon as they establish an account at thetollroads.com (PROMO CODE: FREETOLL). The offer ends May 11.
Will you join the 450,336 people who have a FasTrak account or the 69,619 who have an ExpressAccount?