Octa's transportation blog

Improving Commutes & Lives during 20 Years of 91 Express Lanes Ownership

During the last 20 years, transportation options have improved for those traveling between Orange and Riverside counties. Customers have taken more than 277 million trips on the 91 Express Lanes and, under OCTA’s innovative leadership, more than $2 billion has been dedicated to improving transportation along the SR-91 Freeway.

This month, OCTA marks its 20th anniversary of ownership and operations of the 91 Express Lanes, which in Orange County consists of 10 miles in each direction between SR-55 in Anaheim and Riverside County.

“When you look back at the last two decades and the millions of people who have traveled the 91 Express Lanes since OCTA took over ownership and operations, you see a great example of how improving transportation truly enhances people’s lives,” said OCTA Chairman Gene Hernandez, also the Mayor of Yorba Linda. “The pioneering work OCTA has done on the 91 Express Lanes has given commuters a reliable, time-saving option and has also led to billions of dollars invested for everyone who travels the 91 corridor through Orange and Riverside counties.”

The success of the 91 Express Lanes dates back to January 2003, when OCTA spent approximately $208 million to buy the lanes from a private for-profit company. The purchase eliminated a so-called “non-compete clause” that prohibited improvements to regular lanes of the SR-91 freeway adjacent to the toll lanes.

OCTA directors envisioned how purchasing the toll lanes would lead to a more valuable investment for everyone who travels between the established job centers of Orange County and the booming housing centers in the Inland Empire.

Since OCTA’s purchase of the 91 Express Lanes, excess toll revenues have led to more than $2 billion being earmarked or spent by both OCTA and the Riverside County Transportation Commission (RCTC) to improve the regular 91 lanes and make other transportation improvements. Another $1 billion in multimodal improvements is planned over the next 20 years. View improvements here.

The success of the 91 Express Lanes in Orange County led to a $1.4 billion investment by the RCTC, which included extending the lanes in 2017 for an additional eight miles.

“We are proud of the model the 91 Express Lanes has become for providing a quicker, more reliable commute for those who choose to use the lanes,” said OCTA CEO Darrell E. Johnson. “We’re also thankful for the strong partnership we’ve cultivated with our counterparts at RCTC, recognizing that traffic doesn’t stop at county lines and regional collaboration is the best approach to keeping pace with the growth in Southern California.”

At a recent meeting, the OCTA Board of Directors commemorated the 20th anniversary with former Cypress mayor Tim Keenan, the 2003 OCTA Chairman of the Board. Under his leadership,  OCTA acquired and took ownership of the 91 Express Lanes, brought together elected officials from Orange and Riverside Counties to convene the 91 Advisory Committee that still meets regularly, implemented a first of its kind congestion management policy, developed a three-ride free HOV policy, refinanced the outstanding debt, and utilized excess revenues towards an improvement project on the westbound general-purpose lanes.