Environmental Press # 6

Toll Roads in the Wildersness

Subj: TCA: merging the losing TOLL-ROADS?
Date: Fri, 14 Jun 2002 08:09:49 -0700
From: Doug Korthof <doug@seal-beach.org>
To: voiceforveterans@aol.com

"Toll Road merger a wrong turn?" OCRegister by J. Lansner

"Toll Boards agree to study merger", LATimes


(Gloss of the meeting, with pictures)




It all starts with roads through the wilderness. Everyone knows this, but it is never said. Once a road penetrates a wildlife corridor, there are gas stations, trucks must make deliveries, intersections are created, rest stops and motels, stores, houses, and, in the end, massive mega-development leading to cementing over of the ground and huge new quantites of deposited and airborne particles which wash quickly off the cement, into the rivers and drains, and into the Ocean, impacting Beaches and offshore waters.

This unfunded liability has, up until now, been borne by the Taxpayer, letting the developer lope off with the money and leave the detritus for the creatures, who do not have a seat at this Board.

Both TOLLROADS, "San Joaquin" (SJ) and "Foothill Eastern" (FE), seem to be negative in cash flow, but the SJ is in far worse shape. So bad, in fact, that the financial advisor was talking about how to avoid default on hundreds of millions of insured bonds. The insuring agency (MBIA) supposedly is happy to wait past 2036 for ultimate repayment.

The theory here, of course, is that the TOLLROADS will open up the open space wildlife corridor to development, and, in 30 or 50 years, the road will be even more valuable than the bonds. This only works if they succeed in breaking up the wild, and constructing thousands more houses where forest, grassland, and habitat now exist.

The TCA board has one "holy mantra": completion of the "Foothill South", which goes right through San Matteo Creek, impinges on the ancient village of pan'ge, and affects the classic Trestles surf spot. This 15-16 mile stretch would cost $800 million to $1 billion to build, even if it were allowed.

Their big problem is how to finance TCA long enough for population pressure to kick in, and save the whole messy idea.

A large herd of slick, oily Wall Street types was there, to safeguard their bond investment and maybe pick up a few dozen million more from OC Taxpayers. It turns out that much of their operating budget, and a lot of construction money, comes from subsidies and grants from CA and Washington, DC.

Only three persons addressed the Board meetings (first, the SJ Board; then, the FE board; then a "joint meeting" of the 2 boards trying to save the thing).

MORE MEMBERS OF THE GENERAL PUBLIC must attend these meetings, and monitor the actions of the semi-secret, semi-public, cloistered board. It is, supposedly, a public agency, and spends our money to destroy our habitat and increase our urban runoff.

You can see pics and a rap at http://Orange-County.net/tca

1. To the FE board:
I want to talk about Sea Otters, a keystone species. When the Sea Otters are doing well, mostly everything else is OK too. We think we can only take from the environment, the legend of Grandfather Sea Otter sowing the Ocean shows that we must give, too. There is a hidden cost to the destruction of the watershed, up til now, you have not been held liable. What happens inland does affect the Ocean and Beaches, and contributes to our 3 big problems: runoff, from more urban areas; crumbling infrastructure; and purposeful dumping into the Ocean such as the sewage waiver. [Of course, being so near insolvency, they did not like to hear about more liabilities!]

2. To the joint meeting of the 2:
Eastern European peasants have a saying, no matter how good you think the program, they "...vote with their feet" and just ignore it. Think about it, you might be in trouble here because the people are rejecting the idea of TOLLROAD. It's just a BAD IDEA. The roads that are in are probably too much trouble to remove, but certainly must not be added to -- especially not through San Matteo Creek, the ancient village of Pan'ge, and the Trestles surf spot. I've heard some disturbing things here, there should be the focus of publicity on these failures, don't throw more money on top of the current losses. [They listened a little more, but still focus on continuing expansion of the doomed TOLLROADS].

3. Bill Corcoran, SC:
There might be one road here that makes sense, Riverside to OC, the rest are just for weekend drivers, risky. Whistling in the dark, recurring refinancing makes mockery of the idea of eventual public ownership...inertia, leading you to try to spend $800 million on weekend traffic...Abandon this plan...[more complete version in the LATimes story].


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