IRVINE, Calif. - August 9, 2017
Moody’s Investors Service has upgraded the Foothill/Eastern Transportation Corridor Agency senior and junior lien bonds to Baa3 from Ba1 and the San Joaquin Hills Transportation Corridor Agency senior lien bonds to Baa3 from Ba2 on July 26.
On July 31, Fitch Ratings upgraded the San Joaquin Hills senior lien bonds to BBB from BBB-.
All senior lien bonds issued by the Transportation Corridor Agencies (TCA) are rated investment grade. The bonds were originally issued to fund construction of the 73, 133, 241 and 261 Toll Roads.
“Moody’s cites Orange County’s strong economy and low unemployment rate as contributing factors to the upgrade,” said Ed Sachs, Chair of the Foothill/Eastern Transportation Corridor Agency and City of Mission Viejo Mayor Pro Tem. “Traffic and revenue has performed stronger than forecasts for four years in a row because the 241 Toll Road provides a reliable and convenient alternative to congested freeways that allows people to get where they want to be with less stress.”
“The upgrade is great news that underlines the success of the 73 Toll Road,” said Melody Carruth, Acting Chair of the San Joaquin Hills Transportation Corridor Agency and Laguna Hills Mayor Pro Tem. “Moody’s acknowledged the 9.4 percent increase in transactions in FY 2016 and the agency’s strong liquidity profile as factors in the upgrade and stable outlook.”
According to Moody’s regarding the Foothill/Eastern Transportation Corridor Agency (SR 241/261/133):
“The rating also acknowledges the ongoing growth in the Orange County service area economy, which is expected to continue to contribute to traffic and revenue growth, the agency’s strong liquidity profile and growing reserve fund balances as well as steady toll increases over the past eight consecutive years.”
Fitch Ratings stated the following in its report about the San Joaquin Hills (SR 73):
“The upgrade reflects the agency’s continued improved traffic and revenue performance subsequent to a fiscal 2015 refinancing, [resulting in] financial metrics strengthening to levels consistent with [the] higher rating. The 15-mile congestion-reliever facility benefits from its location within Orange County, which is large, affluent, and growing.”
These moves follow S&P Global Ratings earlier upgrade in May 2017 of the San Joaquin Hills senior lien bonds to BBB from BBB- and junior lien bonds to BBB- from BB+ due to growth in transactions and revenues and higher debt service coverage.
“More people are using Orange County’s toll roads! This increased growth in drivers and accounts, along with conservative and steady fiscal policies and a strong local economy, provide a solid financial foundation for The Toll Roads and this is reflected in the credit rating upgrades", said Michael Kraman, CEO of the Transportation Corridor Agencies. “It further demonstrates the role tolling can play to help solve our regional traffic problems without an over-reliance on diminishing state and federal dollars.”
The Foothill/Eastern and San Joaquin Hills Transportation Corridor Agencies funded construction of the 73, 133, 241 and 261 Toll Roads by issuing toll revenue bonds to private investors. In 2013 and 2014 the agencies refinanced the debt to take advantage of historically low interest rates and established debt structures that align with The Toll Roads’ historical revenue growth. Since the refinancings, traffic and revenue has grown annually.
The Transportation Corridor Agencies (TCA) is comprised of two joint powers authorities (San Joaquin Hills and Foothill/Eastern Transportation Corridor Agencies) created to plan, finance, construct and operate Orange County’s Toll Road network – the 73, 133, 241 and 261 Toll Roads. The Toll Roads have been providing a choice for drivers for more than 20 years and the tolls collected are used to fund debt service issued to construct the 51-mile toll road system, operations and capital projects.