In an historic move, Standard & Poor’s upgraded the Orange County Transportation Agency SR91 Express Lanes Toll Revenue Bonds to “AA-”, making it one the highest rated managed lanes projects in the world. The bonds were issued last year to refund bonds that were issued in 2003 when OCTA acquired the SR91 Express Lanes project from the private consortium that developed the project under California’s prior P3 law.
The 91 Express Lanes is a four-lane, 10-mile toll road built in the median of California’s Riverside Freeway, State Route 91, between the Orange/Riverside County line and the Costa Mesa Freeway, SR 55. “It was the first privately financed toll road built in the U.S. in more than 50 years, the world's first fully automated toll facility, and the first application of value pricing in the U.S.,” according to the S&P report.
S&P analysts cited an expectation that the region's fundamental economic and demographic trends will continue to support growth for the upgrade, and that traffic and revenue performance will meet or exceed projected levels. Annual traffic volume in the corridor grew to 12.1 million vehicles in fiscal 2013 from 5.5 million in 1996, according to the S&P report. The availability of high-paying jobs in Orange County combined with the more reasonably priced homes available in Riverside and San Bernardino counties has kept traffic to the managed-lane toll road robust.