A major Orange County tollway could eventually default on its debt payments unless the operators can proceed with a $2.2-billion refinance plan, according to a report released Wednesday.
The analysis by the California State Treasurer’s Office supports an effort by the Transportation Corridor Agencies in Irvine to restructure the debt of the Foothill-Eastern tollroad network, which is failing to live up to ridership and revenue projections.
“We are pleased with the outcome of the study,” said Lisa Telles, communications director for the corridor agency. “It says that the plan we have been working on is good for residents, commuters and the state.”
The Foothill-Eastern includes the 133 tollroad in central Orange County as well as the 241 and 261 tollways from Yorba Linda to Rancho Santa Margarita. Ridership and revenue for the corridor have now fallen substantially below forecasts at a time when its debt payments have been rising.
Last month, Transportation Corridor Agencies board members approved the restructuring — a move designed to shore up the Foothill-Eastern’s sagging finances but add 13 more years of toll collection, meaning that the corridor would not be paid off and become free to motorists until 2053.
The bonds cannot be sold, however, until Caltrans, which maintains the Foothill-Eastern, signs off on a revised cooperative agreement with the Transportation Corridor Agencies.