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What Will Become of Orange County's Toll Roads

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kernals12:
In 1995, voters in Orange County approved a plan to build 67 miles of freeway. But because they didn't want to pay for it with higher taxes, they decided to use tolls, previously unthinkable in California, to pay off the bonds that would finance their construction. They were told that by 2035, the bonds would be paid off and the tolls removed.

Things haven't worked out that well. Even with SoCal's infamous traffic problems, people just weren't willing to pay the tolls to use them, so revenue came in less than expected. The date when the bonds are to be paid off has been pushed back, now out to 2057. Their debt is rising despite no extra lanes being built. And now that Caltrans is building HOT lanes on the 5 and 405, these toll roads are becoming more and more pointless.

So what are they going to do?


kernals12:
The simplest thing would be to impose a sales tax to retire the bonds. Almost all of the operating costs of the toll roads are for toll collection, so once the bonds are paid off, making the roads free to use would not be very expensive.

fungus:
I could see OCTA try to use making the toll roads free as a sweetener to a sales tax increase, although whether the voters will support it is another story. The last sales tax increase threw money at cities for pretty useless shuttles that made residents feel good about transit without much usage. The other thing is whether the state will try to shut down a toll elimination on air quality conformity concerns, or because it would increase VMT (as it is sure to do).

kernals12:

--- Quote from: fungus on January 27, 2021, 11:41:10 AM ---I could see OCTA try to use making the toll roads free as a sweetener to a sales tax increase, although whether the voters will support it is another story. The last sales tax increase threw money at cities for pretty useless shuttles that made residents feel good about transit without much usage. The other thing is whether the state will try to shut down a toll elimination on air quality conformity concerns, or because it would increase VMT (as it is sure to do).

--- End quote ---

Has Sacramento gone that far into the looney bin?

fungus:
The requirement by state law is to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 40% from 1990 levels by 2030 and 80% by 2050. Because of this, anything that would generate huge VMT and couldn't be justified based on safety or operations would likely be shut down by a governor who claims to take climate change seriously. The tolling of the TCA roads clearly is not a safety or operations issue.

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