Thursday, December 20, 2012

Toll Road Agency Under Investigation by the State Treasure

Before we jump into the news about the State Treasure investigating the Transportation Corridor Agency (TCA), we want to bring up a few points about how this agency is a burden to you, the taxpayer.

A longstanding promise of the TCA is that the roads they build will one day be paid off and “belong to the people of California”. 

However, the timeline of that promise keeps changing. 

Just recently, the TCA Foothill Eastern Board of Directors voted to refinance their debt and bonds—this “restructuring” would effectively push out their debt an additional 13 years.

It’s important to note that while we are waiting to obtain these “free roads” we will continue paying for the upkeep TCA’s roads.  Caltrans (who is funded by our tax dollars) maintains all TCA roadways.  Remember in 2001 when storm drain filters on 73 Toll Road failed and had to be replaced?  Oh yeah, we taxpayers spent $13.5 million to fix their problem.  

And lets not forget how the TCA constantly claims that they do not rely on public funds for their roads, yet over the past several years we have seen them try to obtain federal grants and subsidies (via the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA) and other federal programs). 

Surfrider is highlighting the financial burdens and pitfalls of this agency because quite frankly the news about the State Treasure investing TCA is huge.  As the Orange County Register reports, it’s very a rare investigation, noting:  “This is the first time in recent memory that the commission has examined the finances of a local agency, said Dressler, the treasurer's spokesman.”  The LA Times notes that Wall Street ratings agencies have labeled the San Joaquin Hills toll road's “junk bonds” and the Foothill-Eastern corridor’s bonds are low investment grade. 

Surfrider regularly attends TCA Board meetings.  During the meetings they paint a rosy picture of their finances—glossing over low ridership, the increase in tolls, and now they are glossing over the investigation of the State Treasure. 

While it’s hard to say exactly what the investigation will find, things are not looking good for the TCA.