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.
In 1970, a gallon of gas cost 36 cents and 18-year-olds could vote. In 1970, folks rocked out to the likes of Jimi Hendrix and The Who with a lava lamp in their room. And, specifically on April 22, 1970, Earth Day was born.
According to the nonprofit organization Earth Day Network, the first Earth Day celebrations took place at 2,000 colleges and universities across the U.S. and 20 million Americans participated. Inspired by an oil spill off the coast of Santa Barbara in 1969, the intent of Earth Day is to promote change in human behavior and provoke policy changes to protect the Earth our future generations will inherit.
Nearly half a century later, more than one billion people celebrate Earth Day throughout the world. Various events are held to demonstrate support for environmental protection.
How do The Toll Roads celebrate Earth Day? For more than a quarter century, the Transportation Corridor Agencies (TCA) has been a leading agency in environmental stewardship, restoration and preservation. TCA has replanted native vegetation and restored habitats for threatened species at 17 sites throughout Orange County; resulting in more than 2,100 acres of habitat set aside for native animals to continue thrive as Orange County grows.
And this year, we’re celebrating Earth Day by providing exclusive access to the Upper Chiquita Canyon Conservation Area to nearly 40 Plein Air artists from SOCALPAPA. In French, “plein air” means “open air” or “outside” and the picturesque Upper Chiquita Canyon is a painter’s delight. We’re thrilled to open a pristine outdoor setting that is rarely open to the public, located near the south end of the 241 Toll Road in Rancho Santa Margarita.
Fun Fact – Earth Day Network has announced their ambitious plan to plant 7.8 billion trees by Earth Day’s 50th Anniversary in 2020. They report “trees are essential tools in the fight for a cleaner, sustainable environment and in one year, a single acre of mature trees absorbs the same amount of carbon dioxide produced by driving the average consumer car 26,000 miles.”
Read on to learn more fun Earth Day facts and stay tuned to see how we prepare for this unique special event.
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.”
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 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 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: email@example.com FAX: 949-754-3467 EOE/V/F/M www.thetollroads.com
The 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 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.
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:
- Charge ExpressAccount™
- Prepaid ExpressAccount™
- Invoice ExpressAccount™
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: Feedbackfirstname.lastname@example.org 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.