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Learn about Orange County Transportation Authority, including Featured News, Key Projects, The Team, and Bond Programs.
OCTA’s innovative Environmental Mitigation Program serves as an example for transportation agencies around the country
ORANGE – As the Orange County Transportation Authority advances programs and services to enhance the county’s transportation network, it’s also working with the environmental community to protect what makes Orange County such a great place to live.
That commitment was recently affirmed by a Federal Highway Administration case study that demonstrates how transportation improvements and environmental goals can be mutually accomplished through strong partnerships.
Since 2006, when Orange County voters overwhelmingly approved the renewal of a 30-year, half-cent sales tax for transportation improvements, the Measure M funds have helped implement OCTA’s comprehensive Environmental Mitigation Program.
With funds for that program, OCTA has improved freeway project coordination and approval, has sped up the permitting process, and has helped preserve more than 1,300 acres of high-value undeveloped wildlands and restored approximately 350 acres of native habitat in Orange County.
“The recognition of OCTA’s environmental efforts in this case study further demonstrates that OCTA is keeping its commitments made to taxpayers through Measure M, and it shows that transportation and environmental goals can be achieved simultaneously,” said OCTA Chairman Andrew Do, also Chairman of the Orange County Board of Supervisors.
In simple terms, in coordination with state and federal agencies, the program takes a comprehensive approach to mitigate the environmental impacts from the 13 freeway projects approved by voters in Measure M. Rather than the traditional piecemeal method of mitigating near each project, OCTA was able to provide a greater environmental benefit through the purchase of large swaths of connected land around the county.
These properties contain high-value, threatened and endangered habitat and wildlife and were eligible for development. OCTA bought the land from willing sellers, ensuring their preservation in perpetuity.
The Federal Highway Administration’s case study, released earlier this year, indicates that OCTA’s program has developed mechanisms that allow for advanced compensatory mitigation, a specific type of environmental mitigation required by the Clean Water Act.
OCTA performed compensatory mitigation in advance of its freeway projects even before it was required. The agency’s Environmental Mitigation Program is one case study in a series conducted by the Federal Highway Administration that highlights how transportation agencies around the country are implementing a system called Eco-Logical. It’s a novel approach to mitigation planning that’s designed to help transportation, resource, and regulatory agencies work together to develop infrastructure and conservation processes and determine a joint set of environmental priorities.
OCTA partnered with resource and regulatory agencies to develop mitigation planning resources like the Measure M Conservation Plan and Preserve-specific Resource Management Plans, which prioritize sensitive habitats and species in Southern California.
At the same time, OCTA’s program has also greatly reduced the time it takes to process a freeway project permit and has improved the overall efficiency of project coordination and approval, allowing for project’s to be built sooner to keep Orange County moving. Expedited project delivery helps to manage costs and allows residents to realize tangible benefits of their tax dollars more quickly.
One of the first steps OCTA took toward utilizing the Eco-Logical approach was establishing the Environmental Oversight Committee in 2007. The 12-member committee evaluates and makes recommendations on the allocation of environmental mitigation funds related to resource protection and regulatory requirements.
Through its strong partnerships, OCTA continues to follow the Eco-Logical approach to accelerate project delivery and improve environmental outcomes.
For more information, please visit www.octa.net/environmental.
OCTA will distribute federal funds to local cities for pavement reconstruction and upkeep, offsetting effects of sales tax drops during COVID-19 pandemic
ORANGE – The Orange County Transportation Authority earlier this month awarded nearly $11 million in federal funds for paving and upkeep of streets across Orange County, helping maintain the county’s high-quality pavement conditions for the safety of drivers, cyclists and pedestrians.
The funds totaling $10.9 million, from the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act (CRRSAA), are intended to offset revenue losses during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
“These funds will help continue Orange County’s commitment for high-quality pavement conditions that make it possible for our residents, workers, and visitors to travel safely and efficiently,” said OCTA Chairman Andrew Do, also the Chairman of the Orange County Board of Supervisors.
The funds will be distributed to Orange County cities and the county using a formula based on population, with each receiving a minimum of $200,000. Anaheim, with more than 350,000 residents, is set to receive more than $1 million, while a city such as Villa Park, with fewer than 6,000 residents, still gets $200,000. The population-based formula is consistent with how funds are being distributed statewide through the California Transportation Commission.
Although local cities and the county may have received state and federal stimulus funds for a variety of needs, the use of CRRSAA funds ensures that the money goes directly to transportation needs.
Based on pavement management plan reports submitted by local agencies, there is a backlog in current and projected Orange County pavement needs.
The use of the federal CRRSAA funds will help make up for decreases in transportation funding from both local and state sales tax, which declined during the pandemic and impacted agencies abilities to maintain roadways.
The funds will be used specifically for pavement preservation, preventative maintenance, rehabilitation and reconstruction.
OCTA, County of Orange and City of San Clemente reaffirm commitment to transportation solutions that minimize community impacts
ORANGE COUNTY, CA – The Orange County Transportation Authority, County of Orange and City of San Clemente all recently approved a Cooperative Agreement to support a trio of south Orange County transportation projects that will meet near-term congestion relief needs while minimizing impacts on local communities.
This Cooperative Agreement follows more than two decades of discussions regarding the proposed toll road extension through protected open space in both San Mateo State Park, near San Onofre State Beach and the City of San Clemente. Significant efforts to finally resolve the issue emerged in the past two years with the involvement and leadership of Senator Pat Bates (R-Laguna Niguel), Supervisor Lisa Bartlett, OCTA, City of San Clemente and County of Orange.
“Being able to bring key players to the table and create a blueprint for addressing community concerns and developing local solutions to improve mobility in South County, is a win-win for everyone involved,” said Orange County Supervisor and OCTA Director, Lisa Bartlett, who led the collaborative effort to find an agreement. “Residents can rest easy knowing what the future holds for transportation projects and planning efforts in the City of San Clemente’s backyard and throughout the region.”
“For decades, residents in San Clemente have spoken loud and clear about the importance of preserving our open space and protecting the character of our community,” said San Clemente Mayor Kathy Ward. “Thanks to this agreement, we can finally focus on common-sense traffic solutions to ensure our City and our neighboring cities remain desirable places to live, work and visit.”
“I am heartened to see the spirit of cooperation in Orange County that has allowed transportation leaders to come together to address the environmental concerns of residents and local businesses, and create an agreement for the future of mobility in South Orange County,” said Senator Pat Bates. “Therefore, I am happy to withdraw Senate Bills 760 and 761, which were the impetus for regional leaders to come together to author this cooperative agreement.”
As previously approved, the near-term projects spelled out in the Cooperative Agreement to improve South County mobility include:
OCTA, Transportation Corridor Agencies, and Caltrans agreed on those three projects in March 2020, in lieu of extending the SR-241 Toll Road. The approach supports protection of previously approved conservation easements and protected lands within San Clemente, is consistent with OCTA’s commitment to follow a continuing, cooperative, and comprehensive planning process that provides all partner agencies and stakeholders opportunities to engage and provide input.
Reaffirming the commitment to those projects, the Cooperative Agreement was approved by OCTA on Oct. 11 and by the County and City at their meetings on Oct. 5. In part, the agreement states the County of Orange and OCTA “will not build, support or authorize a new major thoroughfare in the City in an area that is subject to a conservation easement or is protected as open space under a local initiative.”
Additionally, the agencies agreed that OCTA, as the state-designated County Transportation Commission, will work with stakeholders to plan any necessary long-term improvements.
OCTA is currently underway on its South Orange County Multimodal Transportation Study that is looking at a wide range of transportation needs and solutions over the next 25 years, including improvements to streets, bus and other transit options, highways and bikeways. This study, expected to be finished in spring 2022, includes participation of key stakeholders and follows on a similar study that was done in 2008, which resulted in a more than $1.5 billion investment in south county transportation projects and services. In addition, OCTA is working on the 2022 Long Range Transportation Plan, developed every four years and expected to be complete fall 2022, which serves as the vision for Orange County’s future transportation needs.
The 91 Express Lanes was born from the need for congestion relief on SR-91 when no public funds were available to solve this critical transportation problem. Built by the California Private Transportation Company (CPTC), the 91 Express Lanes embodied a unique concept: The private sector would take the risk and the state would get congestion relief at no cost to taxpayers.
Built at a cost of $135 million, the Orange County section of the project was authorized as a toll road by the State of California in 1989 and opened in 1995. An agreement with the State of California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) included a non-compete provision that created a 1.5-mile protection zone along each side of SR-91. This zone prohibited improvements along the corridor and created mobility problems as the region and corresponding transportation demands grew.
To mitigate growing concerns over congestion, the Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA) acquired the 91 Express Lanes franchise rights in January 2003. This eliminated the non-compete provision, clearing the way for future enhancements that will increase capacity and improve traffic flow along the SR-91 corridor.
In 2008, the Riverside County Transportation Commission (RCTC) received authority to extend the Express Lanes to I-15. Traffic congestion on eastbound SR-91 between Anaheim and Corona is routinely among the worst five areas in the nation. At a cost of $1.4 billion, the RCTC 91 Corridor Improvement Project added regular lanes, tolled express lanes, auxiliary lanes and direct express lane connectors from the northbound I-15 to the westbound SR-91 and from the eastbound SR-91 to the southbound I-15. Improvements to interchanges, ramps and surface streets were also made along the 91 corridor.
The Riverside section of the 91 Express Lanes opened in 2017, providing customers with 8 additional miles of travel time certainty.
To provide 91 Express Lanes customers with excellent customer service, OCTA and RCTC entered into an agreement with the current 91 Express Lanes operator to service both segments of the Express Lanes.
In July 2013, OCTA issued Senior Lien Toll Road Revenue Refunding Bonds, Series 2013, to refund the outstanding Series 2003 Bonds, which were originally issued to finance the acquisition of the 91 Express Lanes for the design, construction and installation of the toll road. The current bonds outstanding are the Series 2013 Bonds.
Bond Ratings: A1/AA-/A+
Final Maturity: 2030
Debt Outstanding as of 12/31/2021: $78,515,000
On November 7, 2006, the voters of Orange County chose to extend the Measure M1 half cent sales tax for another 30 years from 2011 through 2041. Measure M2 (M2), administered by the Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA), will generate billions of dollars to improve transportation in Orange County. M2 is designed to reduce traffic congestion and enhance overall mobility. Improvements in the plan include improving key freeways, upgrading major interchanges, and adding capacity and maintaining streets and roads. M2 allocates 43 percent of funds to freeway projects, 32 percent to streets and roads, and 25 percent to transit projects.
While the COVID-19 pandemic negatively impacted sales tax revenue through the first half of FY 2020-21, the second half of the FY showed tremendous growth as the Orange County economy began emerging from the pandemic. Though restaurants, gas
stations, and brick and mortar retail continued to be impacted in FY 2020-21, the impacts were more than offset by increased online purchases and the benefit of collecting sales tax on out-of-state online purchases, made possible by the Wayfair decision. As a result, sales tax collections for FY 2020-21 grew by 8.6 percent to $345 million, which is the highest annual sales tax collection for M2. Based on the strong sales tax growth in FY 2020-21 coupled with more optimistic near-term economic recovery, the 2021 sales tax revenue forecast for M2 is $13.2 billion. The revised forecast represents a $1.6 billion gross increase from what was assumed in the prior year's forecast.
On December 13, 2021, the 2021 Next 10 Plan was approved by the Board, reflecting updates to the Measure M2 sales tax revenue forecast, external funding assumptions, and project cost estimates. This comprehensive plan sets priorities and funding commitments over a ten-year period (2021-2030) to ensure the realization of Measure M2 commitments, maintain fiscal sustainability, and strive to deliver transportation benefits early.
The largest component of the overall M2 Program is the Freeway Program. It receives 43 percent of the net sales tax revenue. In the 2021 Next 10 Plan, $4.7 billion in freeway projects are scheduled to be delivered. The I-405 Improvement Project, which at $2.1 billion in estimated cost, will be the largest capital project that OCTA has delivered in its history. This project, slated to open in 2023, is concurrently under final design and construction.
OCTA issues Sales Tax Revenue bonds to provide funds for certain transportation projects, such as the Series 2019 Bonds issued in February 2019 for the funding of the general purpose lanes for the I-405 Improvement Project. The current bonds outstanding are the Series 2010 A Bonds, and Series 2019 Bonds. The 2021 Next 10 plan maintains just one bond issuance during the Next 10 Plan timeframe of approximately $200 million in Fiscal Year 2023; the amount assumed decreased by approximately $375 million from the 2020 Next 10 Plan.
Final Maturity: 2041
Bond Ratings: Aa2/AA+/AA+
Debt Outstanding as of 12/31/2021: $618,625,000
In April 2015, the OCTA Board of Directors approved the Interstate 405 (I-405) Improvement Project (Project). The Project increases the capacity of the severely congested I-405 Corridor in Orange County. The widening includes the addition of one general purpose lane in each direction plus tolled express lanes in each direction of I-405.
The Project is fully funded by federal, state, and local levels of government. As part of the funding plan for the Project, in July 2017, OCTA and the United States Department of Transportation Build America Bureau Credit Programs Office (Bureau) executed a Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA) Loan for $628.9 million (2017 TIFIA Loan) as a direct borrowing for the Project. In September 2021, OCTA refinanced the 2017 TIFIA Loan with a new loan (2021 TIFIA Loan), at a lower interest rate, generating financing costs savings over the life of the loan.
On September 29, 2021, OCTA issued $662,820,000 in Bond Anticipation Notes (BANs) as short-term interim financing for the Project. By using the BANs proceeds to pay for Project construction draws, delaying draws on the TIFIA loan until October 2024 and paying off the BANs with the 2021 TIFIA loan proceeds, OCTA will lower its overall financing costs for the Project.
Final Maturity: 2024
Bond Ratings: Aa3/AA/--
Debt Outstanding as of 12/31/2021: $662,820,000