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Figures ‘Not as Good’ for Foothill Route : Study Says Tolls Can Support 2 New Roads

Times Urban Affairs Writer

Tolls ranging from 75 cents to $1.50 will be sufficient to complete the financing of two planned toll roads in south Orange County, but perhaps not enough for a third, a consultant has told county officials.

A study of traffic patterns and revenue sources by Wilbur Smith & Associates shows that tolls, combined with developer fees and federal funds, will generate enough money to retire revenue bonds that will be sold to finance construction of the San Joaquin Hills and Eastern toll roads, but not the longer Foothill project, according to John Meyer, executive director of the Orange County Transportation Corridor Agencies. The agencies oversee the toll road projects.

“The tolls will make it quite feasible to finance all of the corridors, except that we will have to reconsider some aspects of the Foothill project,” Meyer said.

Details of the Wilbur Smith study will not be made public until Thursday’s meeting of the TCA boards of directors, Meyer said.

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However, Meyer said the study indicates that an average toll of $1 to $1.20 to drive the entire 15-mile length of the San Joaquin project is feasible, with lesser fees for shorter trips.

The San Joaquin toll road would extend California 73 from the Corona del Mar Freeway at MacArthur Boulevard to Interstate 5 near San Juan Capistrano, through Laguna Hills.

“The numbers did not look as good for the Foothill project,” Meyer said. “So we’ve asked them (Wilbur Smith) to come back with another analysis that would take into account the possibility of breaking up the Foothill project into sections, with the benefit of knowing that we already have $80 million committed from developers to help pay for the seven miles” northeast of El Toro through the new community of Rancho Santa Margarita.

Meyer has said previously that he would like to use that stretch of highway to test high-tech toll road equipment.

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The Eastern toll road project would extend from the Riverside Freeway near the Riverside County line through the Santa Ana Mountains to the Laguna Freeway in east Irvine.

The Foothill would link the Eastern with Interstate 5 near San Clemente.

The Wilbur Smith study was based on responses to a survey distributed at on-ramps and arterial roads throughout the county.

The survey gathered information about commuters’ travel habits, partly to see if there will be sufficient use of the toll roads to pay back construction costs.


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