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Toll Roads Will Take Bigger Toll on Your Wallet

Higher rates are needed to meet bond obligations, official says.

If you take the toll roads, expect to fork over a little more cash starting July 1.

The two boards that oversee the 51 miles of tollways in Orange County adopted their budgets this week, and the provisions include a straight 25-cent increase in tolls for those who pay cash and a 5 percent increase for FasTrak users, rounded to the nearest nickel.

Increases for these users, which comprise 80 percent of toll road users, will vary from 5 cents to 25 cents, depending on the time of day, said Transportation Corridor Agencies spokeswoman Susie Williams.

“The El Toro ramp, for example, will go from $2 to $2.10,” she said. “It will vary based on location and time of day.”

Rush hour tolls are higher. The maps in the PDFs attached to this article show some increased tolls at specific onramps.

Williams said the rate increases aren’t related to the faltering economy or lost revenue. She said that when the agency originally borrowed money to build the roads, the plan for paying it back dictated increasing rates.

“Our finance plan calls for raising the rates over time to meet our bond obligations,” Williams said.

Most of the $355 million total budget for the tollways goes to debt service to pay off bonds used to raise money to build the roads. The TCA was originally created to borrow money against revenue from future tolls to build the roads in the first place.

The budget for the San Joaquin Hills Transportation Corridor Agency, which oversees the 73 toll road, is $159.8 million for fiscal year 2012.

The Foothill/Eastern Transportation Corridor Agency’s budget is $195.9 million for 2012, according to a release from the agencies.

The Foothill/Eastern agency budgeted $18.3 million to continue . Of that, about $15.1 million goes to engineering and environmental studies while the remaining $3.2 goes to marketing and legal expenses surrounding the project, Williams said.

The California Coastal Commission rejected the proposed 241 extension in its  previous form, and it still faces. The original path of the 241 would have cut through Trestles parkland south of San Clemente. Officials are looking for an alternate route, possibly along the edge of Camp Pendleton, though military officials have not been receptive to that idea.

The following is a breakdown of the $195 million total budgeted for the Foothill/Eastern agency:

  • Administration: $14,386,688
  • 241 Completion: $15,143,472
  • Capital Improvement Plan: $1,861,890
  • Other Planning, Environmental and Construction: $1,704,262
  • Toll Collection Operations: $16,344,504
  • Debt Expenses: $146,469,280
  • Total: $195,910,096

EDITOR'S NOTE: Because of a reporting error, the San Joaquin Hills Transportation Corridor Agency and the roads it over sees were misidentified in a previous version of this article.

Capo Parent June 16, 2011 at 07:56 PM
When you look at the adminstration costs it is clear why they need to raise the rates.
Roy C Morris June 16, 2011 at 08:15 PM
Why not lower fees for seniors at least during off hours. Then I wouldn't be prone to finding alternate routes so often. This could be done with a special senior FasTrack pass.
Mr Salty June 17, 2011 at 04:06 PM
DISBAND TCA and FREEWAY their existing roads.
Mamie June 18, 2011 at 03:23 AM
If the fee was lower, I would be more inclined to use the toll. I have a transponder, but because of the cost I do find myself avoiding using the toll road. Debt service is over 75% of the total budget? Wow!
Basil Espinosa March 20, 2012 at 11:03 PM
I will soon be working in Fountain Valley...driving from San Diego...and I have been looking online to where I can go to see what a fast trak will cost me. I will enter the 73 from the south and catching it from the 405 when I return home in the afternoon. Where do I go to check out where I can buy a fast track for the year?

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