Octa's transportation blog

91 Express Lanes Bonds Upgraded by Fitch Ratings

An announcement by one of the country’s leading bond rating agencies affirms that the 91 Express Lanes continues to be a sound investment. Fitch Ratings upgraded the rating on OCTA’s 91 Express Lanes senior lien toll revenue bonds debt from A to A+. An A+ bond rating ensures that the toll lanes remain on strong financial footing and continue to serve thousands of drivers every day.

Fitch noted that the 91 Express Lanes has seen strong traffic and revenue growth, particularly since extending the 91 Express Lanes into Riverside County in 2017.

OCTA has demonstrated a solid history of operating performance, consistently generated strong revenues, and has positive long-term prospects for traffic growth, according to Fitch.

 “The 91 Express Lanes, which has served drivers for more than 20 years now, continues to be a successful example of innovation in the transportation industry,” said OCTA Chairwoman and Fifth District County Supervisor Lisa Bartlett. “The thousands of people who use the express lanes know they are consistent and reliable and allow those drivers to spend less time in traffic and more time with their families. We are very pleased that Fitch Ratings has recognized this progress by upgrading our rating.”

“This is a tremendous achievement for our county and a clear reflection of the strong, fiscally responsible leadership of our Board and OCTA staff,” said Director Andrew Do, who is also the Orange County’s First District Supervisor and chairman of OCTA’s Finance Committee.

Chairwoman Bartlett and Director Do, along with Vice Chairman Tim Shaw and OCTA CEO Darrell Johnson, met directly with representatives of Fitch in New York earlier this year to discuss the successes of the 91 Express Lanes.

“For Fitch to upgrade the rating means that the 91 Express Lanes continues to have a strong financial foundation and will help improve the commute for thousands of drivers every day,” Vice Chairman Shaw said.

Four years ago, OCTA approved the issuance of $124 million Senior Lien Toll Road Revenue Refunding Bonds (91 Express Lanes), Series 2013. About $97.8 million in bonds remains outstanding.

The 91 Express Lanes is a four-lane toll road with 10 miles in Orange County in the median of State Route 91, one of Southern California’s most heavily traveled freeways and a critical link between job centers in Orange County and housing in Riverside County. 

An additional eight miles of the 91 Express Lanes, operated by the Riverside County Transportation Commission, opened in March 2017.

The 91 Express Lanes, which uses electronic tolling, was the first fully automated toll road in the world and the first in the United States to employ variable pricing. With two lanes in each direction, toll prices vary by hour, day of the week, and direction of travel based on a pre-determined toll schedule that optimizes traffic throughput at free-flow speeds. 

Since OCTA purchased the 91 Express Lanes in January 2003, the objective has been to improve the entire SR-91 corridor. Over the years, OCTA has invested more than $28.9 million in toll revenue for projects that improve transportation in the area. The A+ rating reflects strong inherent financial metrics as well as sound OCTA management.

View the latest 91 Express Lanes annual report here.

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