IRVINE, Calif. - March 14, 2019
At the March Joint San Joaquin Hills Transportation Corridor Agency (SJHTCA) and Foothill/Eastern Transportation Corridor Agency (F/ETCA) Boards of Directors meeting, the Orange County Business Council (OCBC) presented TCA with an award for its innovative, shared approach regarding operations with the San Bernardino County Transportation Authority (SBCTA).
F/ETCA Chair Christina Shea (Irvine) and Vice Chair Chuck Puckett (Tustin), as well as SJHTCA Chair Fred Minagar (Laguna Niguel) and Vice Chair Cynthia Conners (Laguna Woods), accepted the award for the partnership between TCA and SBCTA – which will potentially save $2.4 million in capital costs and up to $800,000 a year in annual operating costs when compared to SBCTA establishing its own “stand-alone” tolling operation.
OCBC’s annual groundbreaking awards program took place in December 2018 and honors outstanding public agencies for implementing policies and programs that cut through red tape, eliminate barriers to economic growth and open the door to the creation of private sector jobs.
“On behalf of the joint Boards of Directors, we thank OCBC for recognizing TCA for working cooperatively with one of our fellow toll agencies and benefitting both their toll-paying customers and ours,” said F/ETCA Chair Christina Shea.
The F/ETCA Board authorized a Task Order with Psomas to conduct baseline biological surveys for the Saddle Club Preservation Property – 33-acres of open space that TCA recently acquired adjacent to O’Neill Regional Park in Trabuco Canyon. The Task Order is for a not-to-exceed amount of $66,000, inclusive of a 10 percent contingency.
To date, TCA has set aside nearly 2,200 acres of native habitat at 17 locations and staff actively manages the sites to ensure they continue to provide a refuge for the numerous plants and animals that utilize them. Saddle Club was previously planned for residential development and is now permanently protected open space.
Designated as a critical habitat for the coastal California gnatcatcher and Arroyo Toad, the site is home to oak woodlands, coastal sage scrub and riparian habitat, and provides valuable wildlife linkages with the surrounding open space areas. The site will be the first of TCA’s open spaces to allow public recreational use – equestrian trails, a native plant garden and hiking.
These baseline biological surveys are needed to document the property’s existing conditions; identify special status species and resources; and establish the full potential for the property to support animals and plants.
Saddle Club will serve as early mitigation for TCA’s planned projects on The Toll Roads’ system – such as widenings and interchanges.
The results of these biological studies will be used to inform the development of TCA’s Resource Management Plan for the site, determine site management needs and establish priorities. TCA also will use this information as a benchmark for the annual monitoring and reporting program for the site.
The F/ETCA Board authorized a Task Order with Land IQ LLC, one of TCA’s on-call biologist consultants, to develop a Grazing Pilot Program at Live Oak Plaza Conservation Area for a not-to-exceed amount of $66,000, inclusive of a 10 percent contingency.
In recent years, several cities in Orange County have moved their approach to maintaining their lands through other natural alternatives such as grazing. In the spirit of working with and learning from partner agencies, F/ETCA Chair Shea and the members of the Joint Environmental Committee tasked staff to explore alternative ways to reduce invasive plant species and vegetation that could ignite wildfires at one of TCA’s 17 mitigation sites.
Staff identified the Agency’s Live Oak Plaza Conservation Property, an approximately 23-acre site nestled in the Trabuco Canyon area, for this pilot program. Prior to TCA acquiring the property for its native habitat and resource values in 2005, Live Oak Plaza was formerly grazed by livestock and lands adjacent to the site are currently grazed by local farmers.
Live Oak contains numerous native vegetation communities, including coastal sage scrub, cactus scrub, native perennial grassland, oak woodland and a seasonal freshwater wetland pond. To develop the Grazing Pilot Program, Land IQ will:
The Joint SJHTCA and F/ETCA Boards of Directors unanimously selected Axiom xCell Inc. (Axiom) to provide the day-to-day maintenance updates and management for The Toll Roads’ app. The Toll Roads of Orange County – State Routes 73, 133, 241 and 261 – were the first toll road operator in the nation to offer a free app for toll account management in 2013. More than 120,000 FasTrak®, ExpressAccount® and One-Time-Toll® customers log onto the app monthly to pay tolls, maintain their accounts or resolve violations.
Some key highlights and features of Axiom’s contract include:
The value of the work for Axiom is not-to-exceed $110,160 for SJHTCA and $105,840 for F/ETCA, with a 10 percent contingency, over a three-year agreement.
The SJHTCA and F/ETCA Boards of Directors voted to approve the 2019 State Legislative Watch List and take a position of support on AB 252 introduced by Assembly Member Daly of Orange County.
AB 252 would allow the California Department of Transportation to indefinitely assume the role of the United States Department of Transportation in National Environmental Policy Act decisions and approvals. This authority was delegated to the State in 2007; however, the current law expires on January 1, 2020. This bill would extend the operation of these provisions in perpetuity allowing projects to be delivered in a timelier, efficient and cost-effective manner.
The weather in February affected traffic on The Toll Roads. Due to an overwhelming amount of rain in February 2019 (and no comparable rain days in 2018) transactions decreased by 4.8 percent and revenue decreased by 2.5 percent for the 73 Toll Road. On the 133, 241 and 261 Toll Roads, transactions decreased by 2.3 percent and revenue decreased by 0.9 percent.