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Transportation Corridor Agencies May Board Meeting Highlights

Highlights from the May 14 Joint San Joaquin Hills and Foothill/Eastern Transportation Corridor Agencies Board Meeting are provided below.

IRVINE, Calif. - May 15, 2020

Grazing Pilot Program Approved for Live Oak Plaza Mitigation Site in Trabuco Canyon

After a one-year effort of exploring alternative ways to improve native habitat and reduce the risk of wildland fires, the Foothill/Eastern Transportation Corridor Agency (F/ETCA) Board of Directors adopted the recommendations contained in the Live Oak Conservation Area Feasibility Study. The approval allows staff to implement three-year cattle grazing pilot program at the Live Oak Mitigation Site, an approximately 23-acre site nestled in the Trabuco Canyon area.

The Live Oak Mitigation Site is one of 17 mitigation areas set aside as permanent open space by the Transportation Corridor Agencies (TCA). Prior to the F/ETCA 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 date, TCA has set aside nearly 2,200 acres of native habitat throughout Orange County and collaborates with state and regional partners to reduce the risk of wildland fires through annual weed abatement and other best practices. Staff will monitor the effectiveness of the grazing program and report back to the Board as needed.

TCA Boards Approve Continued Toll Enforcement with California Highway Patrol

The Joint San Joaquin Hills Transportation Corridor Agency (SJHTCA) and F/ETCA Boards of Directors unanimously approved a one-year contract extension with the California Highway Patrol (CHP) for Toll Enforcement Patrol Services for a combined not-to-exceed amount of $352,005.

The Toll Roads use license plate images to process transactions of vehicles when a transponder is not detected or is invalid on State Routes 73, 133, 241 and 261. When a license place is not properly mounted to a vehicle, The Toll Roads’ toll enforcement system cannot process the transaction, resulting in revenue loss. The Toll Roads currently average 30,000 unenforceable transactions per month totaling $1.5 million in annual revenue loss.

CHP’s visual presence serves as a deterrent to toll violators. In addition to monitoring The Toll Roads’ for vehicles with obscured license plates and egregious violators, CHP also will support good driver behavior when queuing occurs on the northbound 241 Toll Road approaching State Route 91 during peak congestion periods. Staff will continue to evaluate the effectiveness of the toll enforcement program in preventing or reducing toll evasions and report back to the Boards as needed.

COVID-19 and California’s Stay-at-Home Order Impacts March 2020 Traffic

Amy Potter, TCA’s Chief Financial Officer, reported that as COVID-19 measures increased in March, transactions on The Toll Roads decreased significantly. For March, transactions decreased 63 percent on the 133, 241 and 261 Toll Roads and 74 percent on the 73 Toll Road. Traffic has steadily increased since late April and, now, the 133, 241 and 261 Toll Roads are experiencing a 49 percent level of decrease in transactions whereas the 73 Toll Road is experiencing a 63 percent decrease. Staff will continue to monitor the traffic and revenue levels and closely monitor the COVID-19 impacts as developments occur.

TCA Boards Oppose Bill that Could Impact South County Projects

The two Boards of Directors debated adopting a position regarding Senate Bill 1373 (Bates) prior to a May 29, 2020, hearing of the bill in Sacramento. As written, the bill would conflict with F/ETCA’s March 12, 2020, action to adopt Alternative 22 – Untolled, “Los Patrones Parkway Extension,” and formally conclude the South County Traffic Relief Effort. The Boards also expressed concern regarding the policy implications of limiting partnership opportunities and available funds for transportation projects, including those collectively agreed to by TCA, the Orange County Transportation Authority and the California Department of Transportation. The SJHTCA and F/ETCA Boards of Directors ultimately voted to adopt an oppose position and direct staff to communicate this to the legislature.