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Transportation Corridor Agencies September Board Meeting Highlights

Highlights from the September 10 Joint San Joaquin Hills and Foothill/Eastern Transportation Corridor Agencies Board Meeting are provided below.

IRVINE, Calif. - September 14, 2020

TCA Boards Appoint Samuel Johnson CEO

Samuel Johnson, CEO Transportation Corridor AgenciesThe Transportation Corridor Agencies’ (TCA) Boards of Directors affirmed that Interim CEO Samuel Johnson will retain the role of CEO effective immediately.

Johnson has led the Agencies to key successes since being named Interim CEO in April against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic. Among his recent accomplishments, Johnson reformed TCA’s internal audit function for increased transparency; oversaw the creation of a more robust consumer privacy policy; and worked with Board leadership to reduce the Agencies’ annual budget by 51 percent while preserving jobs and prioritizing key projects.

Johnson joined TCA in 2015 as Chief Toll Operations Officer. During his tenure, his strategic contract approaches improved the Agencies’ fiscal position by saving millions of dollars per year.

Prior to TCA, Johnson spent 12 years with the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG) overseeing countywide efforts to implement innovative transportation solutions and serving as part of the executive team responsible for the region’s tolling enterprise, including the South Bay Expressway (State Route 125) and the I-15 Express Lanes, the nation’s first dynamically-priced toll facility.

Johnson also currently serves as president of the International Bridge, Tunnel and Turnpike Association (IBTTA), the global association for owners and operators of toll facilities and the businesses that serve them.

TCA takes steps to further reduce debt 

The Foothill/Eastern Transportation Corridor Agency (F/ETCA) Board of Directors authorized a $50,000 study and approved staff efforts to explore an opportunity to reduce the Agency’s interest payments in the range of $70 to$90 million. The opportunity would provide significant savings to the Agency without extending any bond maturity dates and would support future Board decisions to further reduce debt.

The action follows both Boards adoption of a Debt Management Policy last fall that requires staff to monitor the market for these opportunities and make recommendations on the strengths of potential transactions and other options the Boards may want to consider.

TCA Enters New Era in Environmental Protection with Approval of Live Oak Plaza Grazing Pilot Program

CattleThe F/ETCA Board of Directors approved a contract with a local rancher to utilize cattle for conservation grazing aimed at increasing the biodiversity of a parcel of land called Live Oak Plaza. Live Oak Mitigation Site, an approximately 23-acre site nestled in the Trabuco Canyon area, is one of 17 mitigation areas set aside as permanent open space by TCA. which is located directly across the street from Cook’s Corner. This practice helps to restore native vegetation and acts as a fire mitigation strategy. Additionally, grazing is not only more natural, it is actually cheaper than using harsh chemicals or mowing.

The three-year pilot program will begin next year, and passersby may notice 50 to 60 head of cattle grazing on the fenced property several times a year. The effort will be monitored and documented to determine effectiveness.

Grand Jury Formal Response Update 

The Boards of Directors approved the plan for submitting formal responses to the June 29, 2020, report from the Orange County Grand Jury. The Boards expressed significant concern regarding the opinions in the report and the correlation to an orchestrated campaign to discredit the Agency and foster personal attacks against elected Orange County officials. Although the report contained inaccurate and misleading information, it also contained facts that show that the Agencies are on the right path toward continued success. TCA’s response will be formally submitted on or before September 27.

While TCA appreciates the time the Grand Jury spent compiling its report, its findings are not rooted in fact. As evidenced by the multiple reviews already undertaken, the Agencies are transparent and do not take objection to scrutiny from the public. However, the use of public dollars to create or chase unsubstantiated allegations or misinformed opinions is a disservice. With the submission of formal responses to the presiding judge, TCA will conclude the matter and shift focus back to improving mobility the Agencies ’nearly two million accountholders and enhancing the quality of life for all drivers.