Recent upgrades from major bond rating agencies reflect strong usage of the Express Lanes and OCTA’s management for more than 20 years
ORANGE – The Orange County Transportation Authority has completed a refinancing of the 91 Express Lanes bonds, an effort that is saving money and will allow for even more efficient investments in transportation improvements that benefit everybody who travels through the 91 corridor.
OCTA reduced the principal on the 91 Express Lanes bonds from $71 million to a new principal amount of $48 million and refinance at an all-in, true interest rate of 2.8%.
At the same time, the final maturity date of the bonds remains at 2030. The refinancing yields a net present-value savings of $5.5 million – or 8.6%.
Overall, that’s $1 million more in savings than was anticipated when the OCTA Board of Directors approved proceeding with the refinancing earlier this month.
“I applaud the OCTA team for finding ways to maximize efficiencies and save money,” said OCTA Chairman Gene Hernandez, also the mayor of Yorba Linda. “OCTA’s 91 Express Lanes continues to be a prime example of innovation in the transportation industry and offers a consistent time-saving option that benefits everybody who travels between Orange and Riverside counties.”
Contributing to strong investor demand, the 91 Express Lanes bonds were recently rated in the AA- category or the equivalent by all three major rating agencies, including upgrades by Moody’s Investors Service and Fitch Ratings and remaining at that level with S&P Global.
The 91 Express Lanes is a four-lane toll road, with 10 miles in Orange County in the median of State Route 91, which is 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 8 miles of the 91 Express Lanes, operated by the Riverside County Transportation Commission, opened in March 2017.
Since OCTA purchased the 91 Express Lanes in January 2003, the objective has been to raise and lower tolls to maximize the number of cars traveling through the SR-91 corridor, rather than maximizing revenue. The upgraded rating from Moody’s and Fitch reflects strong inherent financial metrics as well as sound OCTA management.
Excess toll revenues, since OCTA’s purchase of the lanes, have led to more than $2 billion being earmarked or spent by both OCTA and the Riverside County Transportation Commission to improve the regular 91 lanes and make other transportation improvements, and another $1 billion in multimodal improvements are planned over the next 20 years.