Blog Archives

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.

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.

WE’RE HIRING: CONTROLLER

We’re hiring a controller.

Reporting to the chief financial officer, this individual is responsible for managing the preparation of financial statements and reports. The controller will monitor and confirm the organization’s financial condition and will provide information to and act as a liaison with external auditors.

In addition, this individual will supervise the accounting efforts between the Finance and Toll Operations departments to ensure that all toll and violation transactions are reflected appropriately in the general ledger.

The controller serves as the principal liaison with banking institutions and reviews transfers and disbursements of toll revenues and construction funds. The controller will also establish, monitor and enforce policies and procedures to maintain effective internal controls. Assuring compliance with master indentures of trust, disbursement from trust funds and assisting with forecasts of indenture funds is a responsibility of the controller.

A thorough knowledge of generally accepted accounting principles, internal financial controls, auditing principles and practices is required.  This position requires:

  • A bachelor’s degree in accounting or a closely related field
  • Approximately five years professional accounting experience
  • One to two years of public/government experience
  • Two years of auditing experience
  • Two years direct supervision of accounting staff

A CPA license is preferred and a master’s degree is desirable.  The salary range is $98,601 to $147,902 and resumes will be accepted through Friday, March 21, 2014.

For consideration, e-mail, fax or mail your resume with salary history to: Human Resources 
Transportation Corridor Agencies 
125 Pacifica, Suite 100, Irvine, CA  92618 
E-mail: recruit@thetollroads.com
FAX:  949-754-3467 
EOE/V/F/M 
www.thetollroads.com

STATE ROUTE 241 WILDLIFE FENCE IMPROVEMENT PROJECT

Fence and RoadThe Foothill/Eastern Transportation Corridor Agency will soon install new wildlife fencing along portions of the 241 Toll Road.  The new fencing and associated wildlife escape ramps are being implemented to reduce the number of animal-to-vehicle collisions and safely direct wildlife to the existing undercrossings.  The new fence will be placed closer to the edge of roadway and will be upwards of 12 feet in height to prevent animals from climbing over and onto roadway.  

The project is a result of a collaborative effort with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the University of California, Davis Wildlife Health Center and other stakeholders.  

The first phase of the wildlife fencing project will be complete by June 2014, with future phases to be implemented over the next few years pending budget approval. Upon completion of the fence installation, the F/ETCA will monitor and document its effectiveness in reducing collisions and increasing usage of existing undercrossings.  The data obtained post-project will serve as a model for other transportation projects.

THE TOLL ROADS 2013 ANNUAL REPORT

The Toll Roads and Transportation Corridor Agencies Fiscal Year 2013 (FY13) Annual Report on financials is now available.

At $260,223,000, revenues were up collectively and for each of our two agencies.  The number of FasTrak® accounts increased, as did the number of transponders that we have in California vehicles.  During the year, 80 million tolls were paid and 85 percent of those tolls were paid electronically.  We ended the year with $523 million in reserve funds. 

In FY13, we welcomed a new chief executive officer, chief financial officer and 14 new Board Members who are leading the agencies and The Toll Roads with a focus on customer service; building direct connections from The Toll Roads to local freeways to advance regional mobility; working diligently to find an alternative to Interstate 5; and offering Southern California drivers an express choice that is predictable, saves time and reduces stress.

Click here to view the audited financial statements for each agency. 

FINAL Infographic SocialMediaAR13

YOU’RE INVITED! OPEN HOUSE TO LAUNCH THREE NEW EXPRESSACCOUNT TYPES

There are big changes happening on The Toll Roads (State Routes 73, 133, 241 and 261).  Starting in May, you will no longer be able to pay tolls with cash on The Toll Roads.  While we are eliminating one way to pay, we’ve introduced four new methods of payment that were developed for drivers by drivers.

Now, there are five ways to pay tolls on The Toll Roads:

  • FasTrak®
  • Charge ExpressAccount
  • Prepaid ExpressAccount
  • Invoice ExpressAccount  
  • One-Time-Toll

You’re invited to an Open House to commemorate the launch of the three new ExpressAccount types. 

WHAT: Come hear about the ExpressAccount types and sign up for the account that is right for you!  

WHEN:Wednesday, January 15, 2014, at 9 a.m.

WHERE: 125 Pacifica, Irvine, CA 92618

FREE TOLLS: Anyone who signs up for an ExpressAccount at The Toll Roads Customer Service Center in Irvine on January 15 will be entered to win $50 in free tolls.

RSVP: Feedback-thetollroads@thetollroads.com or call (949) 754-3482.  

Visit our recently-refreshed website to learn more about FasTrak, ExpressAccounts and the switch to all-electronic toll collection.  And, join the other drivers who are looking forward to non-stop travel and more payment choices on The Toll Roads in 2014.

HAPPY 2014! NEW YEAR= NEW WAYS TO PAY

happynewyear2014_900

FOOTHILL/EASTERN TRANSPORTATION CORRIDOR AGENCY REFINANCES $2.3 BILLION IN BONDS

The Foothill/Eastern Transportation Corridor Agency (F/ETCA) has successfully refinanced $2.3 billion in outstanding debt that was originally issued in 1999.

“This is great news for Southern California drivers,” said Lisa Bartlett, F/ETCA Chairwoman and Mayor for the City of Dana Point.  “The refinancing enhances the agency’s financial position so that we can concentrate on providing and improving mobility.  We’ve lowered annual debt payments, which will provide pricing flexibility and cash flow for important projects.”

TCA Spring 2011The refinancing extends F/ETCA debt from 2040 to 2053, lowers annual payments through 2040 and reduces maximum annual debt payment by 24 percent.  The bonds are being structured with various call dates and will be eligible for early redemption with excess revenue if the agency’s Board of Directors chooses to do so, thereby shortening the final maturity date and eliminating the need to make additional interest payments.

“The bond refinancing reduces debt payments by $975 million between now and 2040 and will create a flexible financing structure.  The restructuring of the debt keeps the agency in a very strong financial position and allows The Tolls Roads to continue to provide a valuable choice for Orange County residents and commuters,” said Patricia Bates, F/ETCA Vice Chairwoman and Orange County Fifth District Supervisor.

Traffic and revenue on the 36-mile toll road network has been growing with Orange County’s regional economic recovery.  For the first five months of the fiscal year (July thru December), traffic has increased two percent compared to the similar period in 2012 and revenue is up seven percent.

“The restructuring brings the agency’s debt in line with current revenue projections and strengthens our financial outlook,” said Amy Potter, CFO of the Transportation Corridor Agencies (TCA).  “The Board of Directors had authorized up to a 6.5 percent interest rate for the bonds, and the final result was 6.06 percent.  The annual growth rate for the bonds has been reduced from 4.2 percent to 3.75 percent and the peak debt service has been reduced by $74 million.”

TCA Spring 2011In October, the F/ETCA Board of Directors approved the refinancing of its outstanding bonds and amendments to a cooperative agreement between the F/ETCA and Caltrans that allows tolls to be collected through 2053.  The following month, the F/ETCA received investment grade ratings from Standard & Poor’s and Fitch Ratings on its update to the proposed refinancing of the 1999 bonds.  With two ratings, the agency was able to move forward with the refinancing.

Standard and Poor’s noted that revenues have responded well to recent toll increases, that the willingness to increase tolls by management is a positive credit factor and that the restructuring plan reduces maximum annual debt service by $30 million (actual reduction is $72 million).  Fitch Ratings acknowledged that extending the debt by 13 years provides a more stable financial profile and that a history of pro-active decisions by management to raise rates is a credit strength.

“The 133, 241 and 261 Toll Roads provide a valuable link to the population centers in the Southern California region – which is the second largest metropolitan area in the country.  It’s a link to a burgeoning economic and employment center that is located in Orange County,” said Neil Peterson, TCA’s CEO.  “We are providing a valuable and affordable service to the people who are coming in and out of Orange County to get to those jobs.  Our board has a 13-year history of stepping up to the plate and meeting their financial obligations. Our toll revenues and our transactions have recovered strongly from The Great Recession and in the last three years have seen a steady increase. The refinancing provides cash flow savings to us between now and 2040, reduces the increase of our debt service requirements, lowers our maximum annual debt service, allows us a greater margin to exceed our coverage requirements of net toll revenues going forward.”

“The experience that we offer our customers is a choice of a predictable trip that saves time and stress,” said Peterson.  “The F/ETCA Board of Directors, finance team and staff are commended for the work they have put into making this refinancing a reality.”

REFINANCING OF $3.2 BILLION IN TOLL ROAD BONDS MOVES FORWARD

241 Beauty ShotWith the receipt of investment grade ratings from Standard & Poor’s and Fitch Ratings, The Foothill/Eastern Transportation Corridor Agency (F/ETCA) is moving forward with the proposed refinancing of outstanding debt issued in 1999 – a plan that was approved by the F/ETCA Board of Directors on October 10. 

The Preliminary Official Statement was released on November 21 and the bonds are scheduled to be sold the week of December 9.

The refinancing is a good financial step that takes advantage of low interest rates to lower debt payments and it will allow for fewer and lower toll rate increases in the future.  Lower toll rates mean less congestion on free alternatives and improved traffic circulation, which is important for regional mobility and recovery of the local economy.

261 Beauty Shot“This is good news for commuters and recognizes the economic recovery that is occurring in Orange County and the surrounding area,” said Neil Peterson, CEO of the Transportation Corridor Agencies.  “The refinance plan provides the agency with greater flexibility to withstand future economic downturns which is the prudent thing to do.”

The F/ETCA manages and operates State Routes 133, 241 and 261.  Traffic and revenue on the 24 miles of roadway have been growing as the Orange County economy has strengthened.  For the first four months of the fiscal year (July through October), traffic has increased 2.8 percent compared to the similar period in 2012 and revenue is up 7.6 percent.

The Toll Roads New CEO Neil Peterson Reflects, Plans For Future

neil-petersonEvery journey starts with a single step and mine ended 1,200 miles later, when I moved my home base from Seattle to Orange County to become chief executive officer of The Transportation Corridor Agencies (TCA).

I joined TCA five months ago for the unique opportunity to collaborate with two boards of directors comprised entirely of elected officials and because I see The Toll Roads as a critical – but often overlooked and undervalued – lifeline for regional mobility in Southern California that gives drivers an express choice.

State Routes 73, 133, 241 and 261 are not just Orange County roads, they are Southern California roads that are critical for people traveling to and from Los Angeles, San Diego and the Inland Empire.  Roughly 80 percent of the trips that pass through our Windy Ridge Mainline Toll Plaza are made by people who reside outside of Orange County and 40 percent of TCA FasTrak® accounts belong to out-of-county drivers.

TCA’s history is unique, inspired and full of firsts.  Our public joint powers agencies were formed in 1986 to plan, finance, construct and operate The Toll Roads – 51 miles of roadway representing the largest network of toll roads in the state.  Built with virtually no taxpayer dollars, The Toll Roads were funded through the sale of bonds to private and institutional investors, and supplemented with development impact fees.  The bonds can only be repaid with tolls and development impact fees and since the bonds are not backed by the government, taxpayers will never be liable for repaying the debt.  We are responsible borrowers who have never missed a bond payment and have always had fully-funded debt service reserves.

Going forward, we will focus on improving our customer service; focusing on our customers who make a choice every time they drive The Toll Roads.  We will listen and do everything we can to attract more drivers to The Toll Roads because it is better for everyone on every road.

We will improve connectivity.  Direct connections from the 241 Toll Road to the 91 Express Lanes and from the median of the 405 freeway to the 73 Toll Road will further advance regional mobility and benefit all residents and commuters.

We will work diligently to find an alternative to Interstate 5 going south through South Orange County.  Today’s congestion in South Orange County is bad enough.  It will get worse with the addition of 55,000 new residents in the Rancho Mission Viejo development.  We need to find solutions that all interested parties can support.

And, finally, in 2014 we will eliminate the need to stop and pay at toll booths.  We will give all drivers the experience of non-stop driving, leading to more time savings and more predictability.

In my first 100 days, I met with employees, board members, supporters, opponents, the media and our customers.  I will continue listening, meeting, seeking, working, exploring, planning, learning and mapping out the future of TCA and The Toll Roads.  I hope that you’ll join me on the ride.  Our goal: to relieve traffic in both the short term and long term.

My best,

Neil Peterson