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Buying Express Lanes: Good Deal or Bailout?

September 15, 2002

Re "A Map for 91 Express Lanes," commentary, Sept. 1:

I support John M.W. Moorlach's appraisal of evaluating the possibility of the Transportation Corridor Agencies buying the 91 Express Lanes from the California Private Transportation Co. As a former board member of the TCA, I believe Moorlach's analysis about the proposed purchase of the struggling operation is outstanding. This is especially true considering that toll roads are a relatively new phenomenon in Southern California and usually run into start-up difficulties. The TCA's learning curve is far more developed than that of the OCTA in regard to running, managing and marketing a toll road.

One additional suggestion for the near term, having just driven through bumper-to-bumper traffic on the Riverside Freeway again a few days ago, is to capture the cash customers who are frustrated by their daily commute but are not yet willing to commit to the monthly cost or luxury of a transponder. Capturing the part-time users would help increase revenue.

Christina Shea

Irvine

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Re "91 Toll-Lane Deal Passes, Goes to Davis," Sept. 1:

Your recent article about AB 1010, which allows the Orange County Transportation Authority to acquire the franchise agreement for the 91 Express Lanes from the private franchise, failed to include me among the Orange County Assembly members who supported or abstained from the bill.

I represent northern Orange County, and the horrible congestion that exists on the Riverside Freeway directly affects my constituents. Not only did I vote in favor of AB 1010, but I also co-wrote the measure with Assemblyman Lou Correa. AB 1010 is the culmination of work I began last year with another bill, AB 1346, to accelerate freeway improvements and provide long-overdue relief to drivers on one of the most congested commuter routes in the nation.

Lynn Daucher

Assemblywoman, 72nd District

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The 91 Express Lanes purchase smells like a huge taxpayer bailout of a failed toll road business. What is next, a taxpayer bailout of the Transportation Corridor Agencies? Moorlach's suggestion that the failed 91 Express Lanes should be managed by the failed TCA is surprising and scary. In fact, are they not failing themselves? One just got junk bond ratings. Wall Street knows that the toll roads do not work.

This action is supported by Todd Spitzer, chairman of OCTA, which will take control of the 91 Express Lanes, and a board member of both of the failing Transportation Corridor Agencies. This worries me, and sets a precedent for government agencies to buy failed toll roads in Orange County and still does not address the real issue.

The real issue is bad urban planning. The solution to traffic is not a $500-million taxpayer bailout of a failed toll road. It is better planning by our politicians and their appointees. You cannot build your way out of traffic. Riverside politicians have once again failed to address the issue of balancing jobs and housing. Large housing developments do not happen in isolation. Proper urban planning requires such things as schools, stores, parks, some wilderness and, of course, local job opportunities. One would think that Riverside politicians would be able to attract businesses to support the large labor force that lives in their community. However, the Riverside politicians failed to plan for jobs and housing and have turned to Orange County taxpayers to bail them out.

Paul Arms

Huntington Beach

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I'm glad to see that Moorlach has done his job well enough to have time for interests outside his actual job. Not only can he address the finances of the 91 Express Lanes purchase project, he is already telling us what the alternate routes (Lake Mathews tunnel and Foothill toll road) should be.

Once again, we have another elected official who is clueless about what is needed but willing to offer his advice on how best to fix the problem. How refreshing.

Here is the real answer to the problem: reversible lanes. They have used reversible lanes on the Coronado Bay Bridge with great effectiveness. Have you ever been to Washington, D.C.? Just as in the Orange County-Riverside area, the traffic flows into Washington in the morning and out of Washington in the late afternoon. There, the reversible lanes are incredibly important to the overall traffic flows. Why not here?

At a minimal cost, the toll lanes connecting Orange and Riverside counties could be converted to reversible lanes, thus adding a minimum of two additional traffic lanes in either direction immediately. Then again, I don't have the engineering degree that Moorlach has. I have only common sense.

Chuck Corpening

Irvine

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