My appreciation to the Laguna Beach Independent for the opportunity to correct disinformation published in a recent Letter to the Editor titled “Toll Road Thoughts” on Nov. 20, 2020.
I am fortunate to lead an agency with capable staff, strong financial footing and Boards that place a priority on regional decisions. My biggest challenge since taking the helm at TCA in April is countering the disinformation that has become all too common today. I value diversity of thought, as the exchange of differing perspectives leads to the best solutions. However, this cannot occur when some want to create false versions of facts or merely seek to denigrate our elected officials and the agencies they oversee.
The March 2020 decision noted in the above-mentioned letter references the formal conclusion of the South County Traffic Relief Effort (SCTRE) and the transfer of leadership responsibilities to the County of Orange to study the advancement of an untolled extension of Los Patrones Parkway as an alternative that could provide significant traffic relief with minimal environmental and community impacts. The identification of the extension resulted from a comprehensive study with significant community engagement, and the outcome received wide support from the City of San Clemente.
Our Boards of Directors understand the value of transportation studies and the need to address transportation policy. Contrary to the Letter to the Editor, TCA has not spent $800,000 on legislation related to this matter. Since April, TCA has spent an average of $16,000 per month supporting the Boards’ legislative positions on all relevant matters.
TCA has a history of sound fiscal management, and this holds true today. Anyone with a mortgage or credit card knows that interest is a cost of borrowing money. This interest can be significant over time, but like many homeowners know, steps can be taken to reduce this cost before it is paid. In the last few years, TCA has taken such steps to reduce its debt service payments by approximately $500 million without extending bond maturity dates.
TCA’s fiscal management has been positively viewed by independent auditors and nationally recognized rating agencies. Our practices have us on a clear path to paying off debt; keeping toll rate increases at small inflationary amounts; and delivering improved mobility without reliance on sales tax or state and federal funds. In addition to constructing 20% of Orange County’s highway network with a value of approximately $12 billion, TCA is helping deliver $380 million in mobility improvements—all of which without TCA likely would not have occurred.
Orange County has many transportation successes to celebrate thanks to agencies working collaboratively to find solutions to mobility challenges. We should have civil discourse on challenges and the solutions and policies that can solve them. Relying on facts and rejecting misinformation will yield real progress for our region. I’m proud to be a part of our continued success.
Samuel Johnson, CEO of Transportation Corridor Agencies