California

241, 73 and related toll roads cost $2.8 billion to build and $28 billion to pay off, OC grand jury says – Orange County Register

The agency that operates Orange County’s 241 and 73 toll roads will raise $ 28 billion for roads that cost $ 2.8 billion to build. The Orange County grand jury said in a critical report that he questioned whether the route would be free to drivers as once promised...

Transportation corridors have accumulated “high levels of debt that will annoy roads and their users over the next few decades,” according to a report by the county oversight committee suggesting that debt elimination will be the agency’s top priority. doing.

Toll road development costs will be passed on to the first homebuyer and will be effectively repaid over the years with a nearby road mortgage completed 20 years ago, the general public said. He added that it was worth knowing if the roads would be free. And whether the agency will decline if the debt is paid.

Founded in the 1980s, two affiliated organizations have built and continue to operate 73, 241, 261, 133 toll roads, managed by one staff member (91 expresses by unrelated agencies). I oversee Lane).

A grand jury report released this week acknowledges that authorities are “building good roads with minimal taxes” and “continuing to carry out state-of-the-art toll collection operations.”

A grand jury report also states that the TCA has reduced future interest payments by taking advantage of low interest rates. However, the report argues that there is no reason to postpone full payments of government debt until 2053, when it is currently scheduled to retire, rather than paying it back sooner.

When the debt was fully repaid, the original plan was to shut down the toll road agency, hand over the road to Caltrans and operate it as a highway, and no tolls were collected. A grand jury report claims that “probably nothing will happen.”

“In an interview with a grand jury, elected and appointed knowledgeable officials expressed the opinion that toll roads would never be highways,” the report said.

The grand jury estimates that $ 700 million in tolls will be incurred annually by the time construction debt is due to be repaid in 2053, and the report states that the public sector’s closure of the agency is “fundamental.” It will be a “step”. At that point, we will stop collecting toll roads.

In response to a grand jury report, TCA leadership said its debt management policies helped survive recessions, pandemics, debt crises and political struggles.

Strategic plans expected to be adopted later this year may include the use of reserves to redeem some outstanding bonds, toll road agency officials added. ..

The Toll Road Authority questioned the grand jury’s quote of “$ 28 billion to $ 2.8 billion in roads (construction),” and TCA officials said how this would operate over the next three decades. He said it was based in part on the assumptions made. “A decision that has not been made clear.”

“The transportation system in our area is at the heart of the quality of life we ​​enjoy and makes it one of the most livable places in the world,” the TCA wrote in response to a grand jury report. “The specific economic value provided by transportation infrastructure should always be considered when considering the total cost of investment.”

Some TCA board members did not respond to requests for comment.

The grand jury reported that toll roads were the key to the development of the city in southern Orange County.

But now that the road has been built, the grand jury questioned whether the associated development costs (paid by the developer but passed to the buyers and borrowers of nearby homes and commercial establishments) are still justified. did.

A grand jury wrote, “Individual homeowners are paying thousands of dollars to institutions that deposit their money in banks for rainy days.”

According to the report, the TCA-raised “large pool of unlimited cash” “improves the image of government agencies, perpetuates their survival, strengthens board member status, and broadens business and political leaders. It is used to “create a favor with”. ..

“Elected members of the board of philanthropists told the grand jury that TCA is always a good place to donate,” the grand jury wrote. “In its most harmless form, tolls are sent via the TCA to the favorite charity of the city council members sitting on the board. In the other extreme example, millions of people I went to a free advocacy group that politically supported certain TCA board members and undermined others. “

Over the past decade, TCA has spent $ 10.6 million in donations and membership fees to nearly 200 organizations, totaling more than $ 8 million in lobbying and advocacy, according to the report.

This report was submitted as at least one member city took steps to withdraw from the joint power authorities forming the TCA Board of Directors. San Clemente leaders have long fought the TCA and others over a proposal to extend the 241 toll road to the I-5 freeway.

The TCA stopped planning the latest 241 expansion after a traffic survey determined that it was not worth the cost. However, the grand jury pointed out that the TCA would fight the bill drafted by State Senator Pat Bates and hinder future consideration of the road, raising concerns that authorities could someday revive it.

The grand jury specifically recommends that the TCA repay its debt by 2040. The panel estimates that debt repayment savings will be about $ 1 billion.

The grand jury also recommends that the TCA abolish the developer fee after repayment of the debt and repay the debt using only the funds raised by the fee in the meantime.

241, 73 and related toll roads cost $2.8 billion to build and $28 billion to pay off, OC grand jury says – Orange County Register Source link 241, 73 and related toll roads cost $2.8 billion to build and $28 billion to pay off, OC grand jury says – Orange County Register

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