Governor Signs Toll Road Bills

Times Urban Affairs Writer

Gov. George Deukmejian signed legislation Monday that allows the use of state funds for maintenance of Orange County's planned toll roads.

The legislation, sponsored by state Sen. John Seymour (R-Anaheim), was sought after toll road planners acknowledged that local revenue probably would be insufficient to pay for maintaining the three planned roads once they are built.

The maintenance issue was of concern to financial institutions interested in underwriting the revenue bonds that will be sold to help finance construction of the highways.

The Eastern, Foothill and San Joaquin toll roads are being financed through a combination of developer fees, state and federal funds and revenue bonds backed by projected toll income. However, state law requires that the tolls must end once the bonds are paid off.

Seymour's legislation also designated the Eastern and Foothill toll roads as state highways. The San Joaquin toll project previously had been so designated.

"These two highway facilities are absolutely necessary," Seymour said after the governor signed the two bills. "Our county is strangling in gridlock, and the toll roads are a big step in helping to relieve some of that congestion."

Seymour's legislation ran into opposition from some Northern California lawmakers. But criticism faded when the Anaheim Republican amended his legislation to allow state funds to be used for maintenance of projects in other legislators' districts.

A portion of the Foothill project may be built early next year in or near Rancho Santa Margarita. The San Joaquin project is scheduled to be built in 1991, although grading is already under way. The Eastern toll road is slated for construction in the early to mid-1990s.

The Eastern toll road would link Irvine and the Riverside Freeway near the Orange-Riverside county line. The Foothill would link Orange with San Juan Capistrano through the foothills northeast of El Toro and Mission Viejo. The San Joaquin would connect Newport Beach with San Juan Capistrano through Laguna Hills.

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