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O.C. toll roads hit by recession; would you pay for a faster commute?

February 1, 2011 |  9:39 am

Talk back LAYou're inching along on the 405 Freeway. The clock is ticking. Minutes are zooming by. Here's the question: would you fork out $7 or $8 to bypass all that traffic and take a toll road instead?

In Orange County, many drivers are saying no. Christina Muscat told Times reporter Nicole Santa Cruz that instead of shaving 20 minutes off her commute from Rancho Santa Margarita to Westminster, she's pocketing the $7 instead, putting it toward gas money.

In Tuesday's story, Santa Cruz reports that recession-hit drivers are opting out of toll roads. Trips on California 73 had dropped 19% from the beginning of the economic decline in 2007 through the fiscal year ending June 2010. On the Foothill and Eastern toll roads, which include California highways 241, 261 and 133, traffic declined 17% in the same period. The 91 Express Lane has fared only slightly better.

Experts believe ridership on the toll roads will bounce back as the economy improves. Transportation officials are banking on it. Both San Francisco and Los Angeles are planning new toll roads. In Los Angeles, officials plan to charge commuters to use carpool lanes on the 110 and 10 freeways by 2013.

What do you think? Are toll roads a good idea? Would you pay money to take them? And if so, how much would you be willing to spend every day to cut time off your commute? Give us your thoughts below.

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-- Kimi Yoshino

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