Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Tax Dollars for Toll Roads

"The 73 Toll Road was the first and largest start-up toll road facility financed with non-recourse toll-revenue bonds. As government agencies, the TCAs were able to issue tax exempt debt, thus resulting in lower long-term debt service costs. Bonds are backed by future toll revenue, not taxpayer dollars, so if the agencies can't meet its debt payments, the agencies do not have any recourse to obtain taxpayer dollars. The debt is simply extended and tolls imposed until the debt is fully repaid."

-ITS Website

Oh really, swan??

The above passage is from the 'Intelligent Transportation Systems' website, which describes itself as "a project of the California Center for Innovative Transportation, a unit of the UC Berkeley Institute of Transportation Studies, and the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans)."

May we hear that guarantee one more time ITS??

"The agencies do not have any recourse to obtain taxpayer dollars. The debt is simply extended and tolls imposed until the debt is fully repaid."

Ahhh… there's nothing like a good whiff of crap to bring us back to our senses. Please, ITS (and California legislators, primarily those in the Orange County districts), tell me why it is that there are two large signs, one in each direction, looming over the 73 Toll Corridor as an ominous reflective reminder that proudly proclaims "This Project is Funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009"… anyone…? Crickets from the assembly?

How about a quote from the California Department of Transportation in their May 4, 2009 Press Release:

"These projects (paving, fixing potholes, safety, bridge preservation) receive funding first because protecting public safety is the highest priority and preserving the state's investment in its highway system is highly cost-effective."

This statement immediately follows this one: "$8 million for maintenance on the 73 toll road in Laguna Niguel, Laguna Hills, Aliso Viejo, Laguna Beach and Irvine, from I-5 to Ford Road underpass."

Do we see what I'm getting at here?

$8 million. EIGHT MILLION DOLLARS! Of Recovery money… err, Stimulus mon—err, TAX PAYER MONEY! Being dumped into a project that funds construction on a roadway that is meant to pay for itself! As stated in the contract of the TCA agreement, itself! What the HELL is going on!?!? Emphasis on 'HELL' direly necessary!

First, why are we spending tax payer dollars on a project that is meant to fund itself thru the toll revenue they collect at the ever-inflating price that now stands at over $5 during peak hours?

Second, why are our assembly people fighting to secure tax payer dollars for a project that is now contractually lying to itself?


The toll road is barely a decade old. I have driven the thing for the better part of that decade and have been commuting on it for three days a week for the better part of the last year. In all of my journeys I have yet to see a substantive reason that calls into question any need for repair and maintenance, little lone tax payer funded maintenance on a private-public partnership. With the excess of gridlock causing shortfalls in terms of too few lanes at major FREEWAY junctions, primarily the chaos still unsolved at the Orange Crush (22/57/55/5) and the El Toro "Y" (5/405), the Costa Mesa Connector (405/55), the number of lanes on the 55, West of the 5 and the chaos that is the commute on the 57 and the 91 ANYWHERE; I fail to see how this is a pertinent, or, as the DOT says, a "priority" project. And exactly what public safety is this improving?

Back to the second part. This Stimulus money being awarded to the 73 Toll Road stands in direct violation of the contract that was agreed to with the government's own TCA, henceforth, the people of the State of California. Who's head belongs on the platter right now? And is said head not there because we didn't have the money to build the guillotine considering we were pissing away all of our tax dollars on fruitless, unnecessary and strictly unauthorized transportation projects? I'd rather have the guillotine! Politically speaking, I'd like to see a head pulled thru it, as well; for I know that representatives are considered "soulless" and are constantly pork-barreling bills for the "benefit of their constituency", but tell me please, residents of Orange County, are you happy with your congressional representatives for their support of this project?

It's not as if it needs it, considering that due to their inflated tolls and the downturn of the economy, ridership on the 73 has dramatically decreased in years' passed. They claim that they needed to raise toll rates to supplement the loss of ridership; however this is a dog-and-tail situation, because you were losing ridership due to the economy making tolls an unnecessary expenditure and people not being able to afford them. So your answer to this is to raise tolls? How'd that work out for you? Accordingly to the claim of the OCProgressive, your revenue sank 8% last year. Gooooood. Again… guillotine? This one would be for stupidity, as you're running yourselves into a vicious tail-chasing situation that is moving so quickly, you're literally drilling yourselves into the ground, TCA. I believe the St. Regis tried this model, as well… what happened there? BK. That's right… they went bankrupt.

How about some savvy business and lowering tolls to give people a greater incentive to use them? Drop it say, 2 dollars, less than half of what it is and if you double your ridership then hey, look at that, you've stopped the bleeding.

I need a head, quickly.

Back to the beginning, how can you justify using tax payer dollars for this project? How can you lie, TCA? Oh, that's right… the Stimulus. Your savagely stupid business plan of raising toll rates to recoup costs lost in decreased ridership placed your company in a precarious situation; furthermore, your advance from the 241 toll road to compensate the 73 toll road for the lost revenue the expansion of the 241 would allegedly create for the 73 forced you to borrow against yourself and sank your company deeper into debt, which would've been a problem except – voila! The Stimulus!!! And even the ravenous imbeciles get bailed out.