Proposed California Toll Road Is Also Financially Unsustainable
A controversial toll road, which opponents say threatens San Onofre State Park and the historic Trestles surfing beach, has new opposition. A new report from the respected Pacific Research Institute says the proposed road would compound financial troubles at the Transportation Corridor Agencies (TCA) which has been pushing the concept for years.
The report, entitled “Orange County Toll Roads: Serious Concerns Should Lead to Significant Review by State and Local Officials,” was released Tuesday and was co-authored by former California Finance Director Donna Arduin. The report gives a harsh critique of the financial position of the TCA and the massive taxpayer subsidies required to make the numbers work for southern California toll roads. The report points out the toll rates for existing toll roads are among the highest in the country, as are the debt-per-mile ratios of TCA toll system. Sagging ridership and mounting debt have led to less attractive bond ratings for the projects.
“Based on my review, the operations of these toll roads presently appear to be unsustainable and may have been unworkable from their inception,” Ms. Arduin said in a statement. “[S]ubsequent decisions by TCA board members and managers have made matters worse.”
The report says that risky financing is bad enough, but extending the controversial toll road would only make things worse financially. Until the finances are fixed, the Institute recommends tabling the new new road proposal. This is the first time the Pacific Research Institute has opposed a road.
Regardless of the financing, the road would have serious environmental impacts. The road has been defeated once before, but the TCA is trying again. An initial permit on a limited segment extending the toll road is still pending.
UPDATE 4/11/13: This news brief from OC Weekly notes that the TCA just lost another long-running court battle with the Commerce Department over denial of the toll road in 2008. Great lede, great kicker.