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Dana Point Times, Vol. 1, Issue 38, October 24-30, 2008

By Jonathan Volzke

THE LATEST: The Transportation Corridor Agencies is asking the federal government for a $1 billion loan to help cover the costs of combining the management and operations of the two toll roads it manages.

Toll road officials say the long-discussed merger would create a stronger, more financially secure agency. Generally, the San Joaquin (73) Transportation Corridor between San Juan Capistrano and Newport Beach has not met financial expectations, while the Foothill Transportation Corridor in southeast Orange County has been financially sound.

The $1.1 billion loan request was made under the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act, designed to help fund key regional and national transportation projects. It would be the federal agency’s largest loan. The TCA has $4.5 billion in bonds outstanding.

But toll road critics—especially those fighting the proposed southern extension of the Foothill—say the billion-dollar loan request is proof the toll road model isn’t working. They also contend the loan is inconsistent with the TCA’s mantra that no public money goes into the roads.

But TCA spokeswoman Lisa Telles says toll money will repay the loan, so the promise of no public funds remains true. Telles admitted toll road use is down on the roads this year—use of the San Joaquin is down 8.2 percent from a year ago, while traffic on the Foothill is off 6 percent—but the loan request is not directly connected to use.

WHAT’S NEXT: Telles said the TCA expected to hear whether the loan would be funded—fully or partially—by now. If the agency’s request is rejected, the TCA will develop a different financing package, she said.


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