Saying they were angered by an alleged Caltrans double-cross, the state Senate approved a proposal Thursday that would prohibit the use of any public funds in the development of private toll roads, including two planned in Orange County.
Senators from both parties complained that they never intended in their 1989 legislation authorizing private toll roads to allow public funds to be used for those projects. Instead, they argued, the state Department of Transportation twisted the intent of that law to include public funds on all four private roads it approved last year.
The legislation approved Thursday, which still must pass muster in the state Assembly, does not apply to three other tollways planned in southern Orange County, which are slated to be built by a consortium of local cities using developer funds and anticipated toll revenues.
Among the four prototype toll roads being planned by Caltrans are the pair in Orange County. One is planned along the center median of the Riverside Freeway, while the other would skirt off the Orange Freeway and run the length of the Santa Ana River atop concrete pilings. The other toll roads are in Contra Costa and San Diego counties.
“We feel like we have been betrayed by Caltrans,” Sen. Dan Boatwright (D-Concord) said. “None of us believed public funds would be involved.”
“It’s terribly unfair to require taxpayers who may not be able to afford that toll to subsidize these roads,” said Sen. Bill Lockyer (D-Hayward), principal author of the bill.
Roy Nagy, Caltrans assistant director, said that the legislation jeopardizes all four approved toll-road projects and that the senators “in winning their point may be throwing out $2.5 billion in public works” that after three decades would become public property.