Tolls At Any Cost?

Couldn't help but take a gander at the latest Honk! column in the Register, which is a must-read for anyone who can get past the fact that writer Jim Radcliffe looks far too happy to be a local transportation columnist. Unless, of course, it's driven him barking mad, in which case the grin makes sense. The column's title promises a Biblical smackdown, with Radcliffe as Moses (only more smiley):

With that headline in mind, I direct your attention to this week's fact:

Fact of the week: The Register has reported that the planned 16-mile extension of the Foothill (241) Toll Road will cost an estimated $875 million (in 2008 dollars) to construct. Which, thankfully, is accurate.

But when all costs are included – like for environmental research and a $120 million deal to get a sister toll road not to sue – the projected bill is $1.1 billion. Not included are to-be-determined financing costs.

Unguhubuwha? (for reference, that's pronounced UN-guh-HUH-buh-WHA and means "what the fuck?") The TCA felt that widening I-5 was such an expensive option that it didn't even warrant sophisticated analysis in their environmental impact report - despite claims that their estimated $2 Billion cost for a widening are over-inflated. But even though their road extension is YEARS from seeing so much as a ground-breaking, the project is already slated to cost one-and-a-half billion dollars. Where do I get the extra cash?

Check out the Register's March 24 article re: the toll road's legal troubles. Clare then-Climaco (now Venegas), TCA spokesperson-turned-Lincoln-Club-head had this to say:

Because of skyrocketing construction costs, toll-road officials say each month the project is delayed adds about $3 million to the price, although construction is not scheduled to begin until 2008

I asked Clare to clarify exactly how long this delay has gone on, and she told me that technically construction was planned to begin in 1997. So let's be generous and call it eleven years of delay- that's 132 months. At $3 Million a month, that brings us to a mind-numbing $396 million bucks.

That raises Radcliffe's estimate of $1.1 Billion to $1,496,000,000. And let's not even consider the fact that the $875 Million figure has been around for years now - but with today's gas prices, how can that possibly be? Won't every single construction vehicle be more expensive to get to and from the site? Won't every single piece of construction material be more expensive to deliver to the site? How can the Transportation Corridor Agencies POSSIBLY expect us to still believe that the construction cost for the Foothill-South will be a mere $875 Million?

I'm more than willing to take your opinions on this one - especially if you're TCA spokesperson Lisa Telles.


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