Orange Co Cal takes step toward completion of Foothill 241 TR
By Peter Samuel
Completion of the blocked 241 tollroad of Orange County California looks just a little closer following an okay from the City of San Juan Capistrano in the path of the planned final leg to I-5. In a 3 to 1 vote the city agreed to the local toller, the Foothill & Eastern Transportation Corridors Agency (FETCA,) would build four miles, 6.5km more of the southern leg of the Foothill tollroad, CA241.
The city wants Caltrans to fund improvements to surface connector roads to handle traffic coming on and off the interim end of the tollroad.
This segment would be a quarter of the missing 16 miles, 24km planned to end at an interchange with I-5 near Camp Pendelton,
The 4-mile extension - which needs to be approved at the next meeting of the FETCA board of directors -will go from the present terminus of the Foothill TR at Oso Parkway in Mission Viejo to G Street near the Ortega Highway, CA74 in San Juan Capistrano.
There would be no intermediate interchange and just the one toll point - all-electronic.
Cost is put at $206m.
Traffic forecasts suggest 41k vehicles/day in 2035. The extension will be built 2x2 lanes with a large median for inward widening.
Development depends on it
Developers have said they'll build 14,000 homes and 5m sq ft of retail and commercial if the tollroad is extended to provide the quality access they need to make the project viable.
TCA would like to begin construction in 2013 to open the road late 2014.
Blocked in 2008 by one of seven agencies
In 2005/2006 the TCA - the county toller which staffs the FETR and the San Joaquin Hills tollroad (SJHTR) completed review of alternate routes as part of an environmental impact statement for the extension of the tollroad from its current interim terminus in Mission Viejo to its long planned end in an interchange with I-5 at the Orange County line alongside the US Marine Corps' Camp Pendleton. But the connection to I-5 near the coast generated strong opposition from coastal groups, notably surfers. All state and federal agencies approved the project except for the state coastal commission.
US Gov stood by
The US Government refused to override the holdout state agency in Dec 2008, and construction has been prevented.
TCA and county transport planners believe strongly the completion to I-5 is needed and have kept the project alive with 'public outreach' to build support for it.
They say: "Extending the 241 will ease traffic on Interstate 5 by creating an alternative route for the hundreds of thousands of motorists a day who travel between San Diego, Orange and Los Angeles Counties. Without the toll road, travel from the San Diego/Orange County border to Mission Viejo will take one hour in 2025. With the toll road constructed, the same drive on Interstate 5 will take 25 minutes and only 16 minutes on the toll road. The 241 is also expected to take pressure off Interstate 15, currently used by many driving from eastern Orange County into San Diego County. The 241 Toll Road will carry thousands of vehicles that would otherwise be clogging neighborhood streets and Interstate 5."
The extension completing the Foothill TR, CA241 is can be fully financed with capital raised on the prospective toll revenues
I-5 at present has no relief, no alternate
At present I-5 is the only expressway standard highway connecting Orange and San Diego counties and serving the developing south of Orange County. 24 million people live in Southern California and plans are to accommodate 30m by mid-century, suggesting major increases in traffic.
TCA says the completion of the Foothill TR is "desperately needed" to provide additional capacity to I-5, an alternate route when there are closures or congestion on I-5, plus providing for local travel in a developing area.
Jerry Amante, chairman of TCA has been quoted:"The regional economy needs the 241. The 241 wouldn't require the huge taxpayer costs associated with traditional road construction. It would alleviate traffic, facilitate goods movement and boost our local economy by providing jobs."
TCA goes on: "California is the 11th largest economy in the world. Traffic from Mexico is growing; the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach are generating enormous regional traffic; and the number of weekend recreational drivers heading to Orange and San Diego County beaches and other attractions continues to increase. So how does traffic get back and forth from Orange and San Diego Counties? There is only one direct way - Interstate 5."
"Extending the 241 will ease traffic on Interstate 5 by creating an alternative route for the hundreds of thousands of motorists a day who travel between San Diego, Orange and Los Angeles Counties."
They say that without the toll road, travel from the San Diego/Orange County border to Mission Viejo will take an hour in 2025. With the toll road constructed, the same drive on I-5 will take 25 minutes and only 16 minutes on the toll road... The 241 Toll Road they say will carry thousands of vehicles that would otherwise be clogging neighborhood streets and I-5.
FINANCES: In FY2010 ending 2010-06-30 the Foothill & Eastern TR (FETR), CA241/261/133 had toll revenue of $118.7m, an 11.5% increase on the previous year sand the sister pike San Joaquin Hills TR $95.2m, a 2.5% rise.
The FETR which opened in stages from 1993 now does an average daily 173k transactions to earn $118.7m gross and has operating costs including depreciation of $24m so has a positive operating profit of $94.7m. But its net debt service costs are $105.4m so it has a net loss of $10.7m.
TCA uses the brand-name The Toll Roads (see logo nearby.)