Today, it's the New York Times turn to parachute in to our sordid county, talk to some of the locals, and leave. This time, it's about the notorious 91 Freeway.
What separates a great story from a hack job is context. In the midst of shilling the idea of private tollways to solve the country's hideous gridlock, reporter Timothy Egan only offers this bit of history:
But there are some cautionary stories, based on California's experience. The 91 Express was initially run by a private consortium, which agreed to operate it with a provision that the state could not add other competing lanes of traffic. This brought a lot of anger, worsened traffic and led to a regional government buyout of the lanes, which then threw out the clause about competing lanes. The buyout cost $207 million.
Another toll road in this region, the 73 in Orange County, is facing a potential default on its bonds because it is not meeting traffic or revenue projections. Commuters say they shun it because it does not save much time compared with nearby free roads.
"This brought a lot of anger." That's a insightful commentary. Advice to all future parachute reporters who visit Orange County: read the OC Weekly. We covered the fiasco that is private toll roads a long time ago. Another Gray Lady reporter was smart enough to contact us last summer for his parachute piece. Result: a trek about town by our fantabulous Commie Girl. And a good article.