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O.C. Tollway Is Set for Widening

Transportation: Four miles of northbound Foothill-Eastern will gain a lane as part of a $12.9-million project.


Orange County toll road officials held a ceremony Friday to officially announce the widening of a four-mile stretch of the Foothill-Eastern toll road between Santa Margarita and Bake parkways, a project scheduled to get underway next month.

Although its sister road, the San Joaquin Hills tollway, has failed to meet traffic and revenue projections since it opened in 1996, the Foothill-Eastern is busy.

During peak hours, the tollway serves more than 4,600 commuters headed north from Lake Forest, Portola Hills, Mission Viejo and other south Orange County communities.

The $12.9-million project will add a northbound lane and widen five bridges. The contractor, Irvine-based Ortiz Enterprises Inc., is expected to complete the work by late 2003.

Mission Viejo Mayor Susan Withrow, a member of the Foothill-Eastern board of directors, called the widening a milestone for the toll roads, "a testament to how far we've come since 1993."

Officials of the Foothill-Eastern tollway this month agreed to consider a merger with the ailing San Joaquin Hills toll road, which might not be able to meet its debts if nothing is done. The Foothill-Eastern and the San Joaquin Hills tollways are managed by the Transportation Corridor Agencies, a government entity that is based in Irvine.

The TCA's toll roads are financed independent of each other and governed by separate boards of directors.

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