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San Clemente Journal

Why do we have Toll Roads

Feb 05, 2004 05:55PM ● By Don Kindred
by The Journal

The History
     Twenty years ago when these roadways were conceived, toll roads were not the first option… or the second option. In fact, they were only built as Toll Roads when all other alternatives to fund the roads as freeways were exhausted and the choice came down to “Toll Road or no road.”
     When road planners mapped out a regional highway system for the county over 20 years ago, they called the roadways “corridors” because they weren’t sure if they would be freeways or highways. Freeways have controlled access using onramps and offramps, while highways do not. At the time, toll roads were not even being considered.
No State Funds
     In the early 1980s, compact, fuel-efficient vehicles were popular and gas purchases plummeted. As a result, the state lost revenue from gas taxes and the more limited funds were earmarked to maintain California’s existing aging roadway infrastructure. State funds to build new roads, like those needed in Orange County, were simply not available. 
No Federal Funds
     City and county leaders put into place a development fee program to provide seed money for the road planning with the hope that this show of commitment would encourage the U.S. Department of Transportation to finance the construction with federal dollars. When federal funding fell through too, our city and county elected officials turned to the only solution available – Toll Roads. 
Toll Roads or No Roads
     Two public joint powers authorities, the San Joaquin Hills and Foothill-Eastern Transportation Corridor Agencies were formed in 1986 in order to develop a financial plan to build the roads that were becoming more and more necessary to ease traffic congestion and maintain Orange County’s quality of life.
     The state granted TCA permission to issue bonds to fund the construction of the first toll roads in California. Because the bonds issued were backed by future toll road revenue and development impact fees, taxpayers would not be responsible for repaying future debt should toll revenues fall short.
…And Here We Are Today
     Twenty years later, 51 miles of the original system envisioned in the early 80s are open and 280,000 people a day choose to use the toll roads. And, 20 years later, the state is again in a transportation funding crisis. But thanks to the visionary city and county leaders of the past and present, the future of Foothill-South is not dependent on the fiscal health of the state of California. Instead, the user-fee based toll roads provide Orange County commuters with choice and mobility. For more information about the Toll Roads, please log on to our Web site,
Independent Survey Shows Support for Toll Roads
     In December 2003, the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) in collaboration with the University of California at Irvine (UCI) released a survey that showed that Orange County residents believe that the Toll Roads have been a “good thing” for the transportation needs of the residents. 
     The results confirm a scientific survey commissioned by TCA this past summer. Both polls conclude that south Orange County residents overwhelmingly believe that the Toll Roads have been helpful in relieving traffic.

The entire PPIC/UCI survey can be viewed online at http://data.lib.uci.-edu/ocs/2002/report/
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