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Toll Roads Under State Scrutiny

Financial viability is questioned. Tolls on the highways are one of the nation's highest per mile.

Orange County's struggling toll roads are under state scrutiny, according to a report in the Los Angeles Times.

"I think they are in trouble," a local assemblywoman told the paper.

At issue is whether the roads can afford interest payments to private investors who own tollway bonds. A panel led by state Treasurer Bill Lockyer is investigating.

Ridership and income are well below projections, even though tolls have been raised frequently and now rank among the highest per mile in the nation, the Times said.

Meanwhile, a law firm that helped defeat a proposal to extend the 241 toll road into San Onofre State Park calls the highways "a time bomb waiting to happen." A lawyer for the firm predicted the toll roads' debt problems could lead to a default on bond payments or bankruptcy.

To read the full story, click here.

TELL US WHAT YOU THINK IN THE COMMENTS

Do you think the toll roads were a misstep for Orange County, or, given time, can they still be the solution to our traffic woes?

Shirley December 12, 2012 at 05:14 PM
Toll are to high, have always been to high & I have refused to be a contributer unless it's 100% necessary. OK let's say when the transponder was no longer free & you had to use it X amount of times to prevent paying a monthy fee, the toll roads were no longer a part of my life. And now they may have to declare bankruptcy????
Charles December 12, 2012 at 05:33 PM
What would happen if the lawyer's prediction came true? How would that affect the toll roads and the motorists who used them? "A lawyer for the firm predicted the toll roads' debt problems could lead to a default on bond payments or bankruptcy."
Mr Salty December 12, 2012 at 06:17 PM
Boondoggle: A wasteful or impractical project or activity often involving graft.
Lindsey Hanson December 12, 2012 at 08:12 PM
FINALLY!
Andromeda December 12, 2012 at 08:21 PM
Hilarious. Dracula has failed in the toll road management - so hand the responsibility over to Frankenstein. heh. I don't even need to read the funnies anymore. I get all my laughs from the regular news! :^)
LN Mark December 12, 2012 at 08:44 PM
No bailout. Let the free market work. The bond holders have rights if bankruptcy is declared, and the courts have tools including liquidation. There is a price where the current and forecast usage provides a return acceptable for those buying the asset. None of the reasonable options include shutting them down, so the state should let the process play out.
Andromeda December 12, 2012 at 09:04 PM
Of course, you are absolutely 100% correct, LN Mark. But we no longer operate under the rules of Capitalism in America today. What you are witnessing much more reflects the economic rules set forth under Communism WHERE FAILURE WAS REWARDED. In fact, modern day Communism (like in China) is closer to the ideals of Capitalism than what we practice today in America. Yes, that is the truth. And I can prove it. Look at the TBTF banks, LN Mark. They blow up the economy and several have profited handsomely off fraud and laundering hundreds of billions in drug proceeds for Mexican and South American drug cartel KNOWINGLY AND WILLFULLY. Yet not one banker went to jail for it. But some guy selling crack on the street corner does 5 years hard time. So there ya go, LN Mark. The land of the free and the home of the brave!!! MORE TRUTH!!!
MFriedrich December 12, 2012 at 09:18 PM
The problem is that the bondholders are mostly private investors. They were supposed to get their money back plus interest after a certain duration. This duration keeps getting pushed back by the toll authority, which means investors are foregoing other investment opportunities. The returns are not what were originally promised, and the investors can't get out or sell these bonds easily because they're all effectively "junk status". I share the sentiment though. No bailouts. There's always a small degree of gambling going on when you invest in state-issued bonds. Especially California's. There are consequences for not being good for the money is having to pay higher interest. The state will figure that out soon enough when it tries to raise money privately for other shaky projects. In other news, caveat freaking emptor, man. Next time buy a t-bill or some gold.
Yeparoo December 12, 2012 at 09:35 PM
He that lies down with dogs, rises with fleas - Choose wisely my friend. The real laugher is PERS "investing" in California green energy projects. Explain that to the pensioners in a few years. They may as well also "invest" in the CATRAK (California's AMTRAK). We all know people will pay $375 to take a train with 4 stops to SF. That beats the heck out of Southwest Air at $99 in less than an hour.
Chip Long December 12, 2012 at 10:48 PM
These toll roads were a scam from the start . . . just a way for developers to have access to build more homes. The numbers never added up. No bailouts . . . besides that the numbers were wrong from the beginning, the "privilege" to use these tool roads is way too expensive. Reduce the fee to $2.00 each way and traffic will pick up. I quit using the toll road as a way of saying your pricing is out of wack. It is time that we let capitalism work. The supervisors and local politicians that pushed for this toll road need to be voted out.
Patricia Buckley December 12, 2012 at 11:46 PM
I attended a protest rally in 1992 against the 73 toll road that cut through an environmentally sensitive swatch of habitat. Of course the politicians and developers touted it as an absolutely necessary fix for Orange County traffic woes. Projections and predictions are just that. We should all think about this as they are trying to ram the bullet train boondoggle down our throats.
The Skoop December 13, 2012 at 08:55 AM
Andromeda you are dead on correct. Too bad too many Americans have their hands out for freebies and don't want to do the real work to get success so bailouts are all the rage theses days. Blinded they don't realize we are becoming a communist country, and now there's another 4 years to get it accomplished! I know, every time my IRA takes a hit someone pay ME back! I'd never even consider it, so ridiculous!!!
Andy O'Connor December 13, 2012 at 02:56 PM
LOL Afternoon Rush hour at the 241 at the 91 is always backed-up!! So they want more money to sit in traffic??? Add more drivers to get more revenue so more people sit in traffic??? The 73 Toll road is the anchor. The 241 is always busy whenever I look at it. Finally, the Toll Road CEO is making $300K salary per year!!!
Gary December 13, 2012 at 04:39 PM
If user fees were reduced back to something closer to the original fees, usage would go up significantly. The economy is tough and persons are avoiding unnecessary expenses which obviously include the toll road. I say let it go bankrupt and allow the citizens to assume it. There was no insurance on these bonds and if persons invested in an unwise manner, so be it. We don't get bailed out by the government when our personal investments fail and neither should these investors.
Gary December 13, 2012 at 04:40 PM
Another thing that pisses me off with the toll road is the flagrant double billing practices. Because of this practice, I am back to traveling surface streets and am seriously considering cancelling my account and returning my families'/business's three transponders. Here is just one example of the double billing practice. If a person travels south on the 241 through the Tomato Springs booth and exit at Santa Margarita Pkwy, this person will incur a $3.25 fee for this distance ($6.50 with a trailer). But, if this person exits and re-enters for any reason at Alton Pkwy or any location south of Tomato Springs, regardless of the time duration of the exit / re-entry, this person incurs a second fee to travel to the same Santa Margarita Pkwy exit for which they just paid to travel to at Tomato Springs. An exit and re-entry does not result in any greater toll road mileage usage and the fees charged should reflect mileage usage not exit/entry numbers. After reviewing my bills over the last several years, I have noted hundreds of double billing occurrences and I would love to see a lawyer take this inappropriate double billing practice to court as I'm sure I am only one of tens of thousands of persons that have been in-appropriately billed in this manner.
Carol Streeter December 13, 2012 at 11:44 PM
I agree!
Mel Miller January 06, 2013 at 06:33 AM
As a former coach operator for OCTA, who lives in Riverside, I never bought into the toll road extortion. It never would have saved enough time to make the toll worthwhile. I,ve seen traffic in the free lanes move faster than the toll lanes.

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