California’s RCTC closes on SR-91 financing

The Riverside County Transportation Commission has closed on $1.06 bn of financing through a mix of bonds and a TIFIA loan.

The Riverside County Transportation Commission (RCTC) has achieved closing on $1.06 billion of financing for the State Route 91 Corridor Improvement Project (SR-91 CIP), aimed at relieving traffic congestion between Orange and Riverside counties, one of the country’s top 15 trouble spots.

The finance plan is a combination of a $421 million federal Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA) loan; and about $638 million in toll revenue bonds and sales tax revenue bonds.

“The SR-91 CIP will build a new lane in each direction of the 91, rebuild seven interchanges, make local street and access improvements in the city of Corona, and construct a number of auxiliary lanes at key locations to ease access on and off the freeway especially between the 91 and Interstate 15 [I-15],” RCTC said in a statement.

“These improvements will be funded through the voter-approved Measure A program,” the Commission said, referring to Riverside County’s half-cent sales tax for transportation approved by voters in 1988 for a 20-year period. In 2002, voters approved to extend the programme to 2039.

The TIFIA loan and toll revenue bonds will finance the extension of the 91 Express Lanes from Orange County.

“The toll lanes will be connected via a new, direct connector that will enable commuters travelling north on I-15 to directly access the toll lanes,” according to the RCTC statement. “All told, the overall project will add at least two lanes of additional capacity to the 91 freeway at its most congested points through the city of Corona.”

In May, the commission awarded a $664.2-million contract to the joint venture of Atkinson Contractors and Walsh Construction for the project’s design and construction, which is due to begin by the end of 2013. Additional costs such as acquisition of right of way properties and construction management bring the project total to an estimated $1.3 billion.

Commuters can expect to reduce their round-trip travel time during rush hour by 90 minutes when the project is completed in early 2017, according to RCTC’s website. The public agency, which was created by the state legislature in 1976, also estimates that it has saved three to four years by adopting a design-build approach as opposed to a design-bid-build approach. It also expects the project will create more than 16,000 jobs.

“This is one of the most significant infrastructure projects in the nation and its completion will enhance our quality of life and support growth in our regional economy,” said RCTC chairperson and Mayor Pro Tem of Corona Karen Spiegel.