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What is Earth Day?

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.

Earth-DayAccording 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.

UCCCA

(Photo: flickr)

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.

Plein Air Painting_SOCALPAPA1

(Photo: SOCALPAPA)

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.

 

ICYMI: TCA in the News

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.Tolls

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!

Father's Day WeekendLast 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.”

$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.