OCTA Expects Billions in Revenue from 405 Tolls

(E-mail ALL the OCTA Board Members by clicking HERE.)

At the June 25 OCTA Meeting, Santa Ana Mayor-for-life and OCTA Director Miguel Pulido made a cryptic comment about financing his quarter billion dollar Santa Ana trolley project.  He predicted that a financing plan would be feasible after the August decision on the 405 toll lane project.

What could these two projects possibly have in common? Was Pulido actually expecting that building toll lanes on the 405 would generate revenue for his pet gentrification project that would move visitors from Santa Ana to Garden Grove?

How much money did OCTA think they were going to rake in? This is never discussed in their phony outreach meetings as they devote  their efforts  to pretending that Measure M authorized toll lanes and that the toll lanes are being considered only because they have greater capacity and  will move more cars. None of their spin doctors ever talk about some gigantic windfall that would give them a slush fund for their pet projects.

Yet, that’s exactly what their internal studies predict.

OCTA commissioned a report from toll road revenue consultant Stantec in September, 2009. That first report  predicted so much revenue that OCTA ordered a second Phase 2 toll revenue forecast to update traffic counts and add in economic modeling to reflect the drop in traffic as the economy had contracted and gas prices had risen.

The second Stantec report evaluated four different options, including toll lanes with no intermediate stops between the 73 and the 605, and the effects of using free carpool lanes with 2 or more passengers vs free carpool lanes with three or more passengers.

The 3+ option  that OCTA is now peddling as Alternate Number 3, predicts annual  toll revenue rising from $71,527,000 in 2020 to almost $93,000,000 by 2047.  Over the thirty years projected in the Stantec report, the total projected toll revenue is over $2.1 billion. You don’t need advanced mathematics skills to figure out that the $2.1 billion in  toll revenue is a lot more money than the $300 million in additional costs that would be needed to  demolish the Fairview bridge, add the extra toll lane through Costa Mesa and set up the surveillance and accounting systems to collect the tolls.

There’s a lot more that you can figure out if you drill down into the numbers provided in the Stantec report.

As anyone could guess, increasing the carpool lane requirement from the current two people per car to three people per car drastically cuts the number of vehicles that would travel free. With a two person carpool requirement, the forecast would be that the 2035 split would be 893,287 vehicle traveling free while there would be 198,317 vehicles paying tolls. When you up the carpool requirement to three per car, those numbers flip dramatically, with 276,035 traveling free and 823,964 paying tolls.  Oops, there goes that phony OCTA argument that toll lanes are equivalent to free carpool lanes.

How about that argument that the toll lanes are so much more efficient because they carry more vehicles? Well, the Stantec forecast shows that there would be 4,668,085 vehicle per year in the five free lanes, and 1,100,000 in the 2 toll lanes. Again simple math shows that on an annual basis, the two toll lanes would handle 550,000 vehicle per lane per year, while the five free lanes would each carry over 933,000 vehicles per year.

For a few peak hours per weekday in each direction, implementing toll lanes may increase capacity. Or they may not. Toll road revenue and volume projections are notoriously unreliable, especially over longer periods of time.

There’s a third implication to the numbers in the report. Projections of the number of 2+ passenger vehicles using carpool lanes indicate that an option with two free carpool lanes from the 22 to the area where the 605 free carpool lane to carpool lane connectors separate from the through carpool lane on the 405 into Los Angeles is definitely an option that should be studied as part of the review of the project. But it looks like the options under consideration have been deliberately limited so that the best option with the greatest capacity at the lowest cost has been excluded so  the big money maker Alternate Number 3 looks superior.

The only thing we know for sure is that once there are tolls on the 405, the lanes will never be free again.

Oh, we also know that OCTA’s PR program is as phony as a three dollar bill. They know that the real reason behind the toll lane proposal is the prospect of raking in a financial windfall with new toll roads, starting on the 405 Freeway and gradually extending to every other freeway in Southern California.

Maybe the voters of Orange County would approve toll lanes instead of the freeways promised in Measure M if OCTA shared their real long term plans, including how they might finance Pulido’s folly and other pet OCTA projects by selling the lanes on our freeways.

But now that we know the shell game they are playing, let’s get the message down to four words.

No Vote? No Tolls


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