The Los Angeles Times reported today that the state of California is investigating the financial viability of the Transportation Corridor Agencies (TCA) of Orange County, the toll road agency that has been trying for years to pave over San Onofre State Beach. This is welcome news for everyone – park lovers, taxpayers, transit riders, commuters, and good government advocates alike.
That the TCA is in financial straits because fewer people are driving its roads than the agency optimistically predicted is not news to many of us. As the article notes, observers have long had questions about the long-term financial viability of TCA’s toll road system. One expert quoted in the article described TCA's financial situation as “a time bomb waiting to happen,” and predicted that the agency could very well default on its bond payments or even go bankrupt, in which case taxpayers could be left footing the bill.
What is news – good news – is that this investigation might ask some important questions, like why are we allowing this financial train wreck of an agency to build a road through a state park, all while adding to its existing mountain of debt? Our coalition has worked for years to protect San Onofre State Beach from TCA's destructive Foothill-South toll road, and although state and federal agencies rejected the road in 2008, TCA has since hatched a misguided (and illegal) plan to build the road in segments. To think that taxpayers might have to bail out a TCA bankrupted by costly and nonsensical projects like this one only adds insult to injury.
We don’t need one more mile of road to be added to this underused, overpriced toll road system. Instead of new highways, the focus should be on improving mobility by providing a broader choice of transportation options. Polls show that this is what Southern Californians want. The investigation announced today could help move us in that direction if it ends up finally putting the brakes on TCA’s delusional toll road plans.