Sunday, December 2, 2007

Orange Country's Transportation Corridor Agencies and Corporate Greed: If The Toll Booth Catches On Fire, Let It Burn!

Last month's California wildfires took a toll on firefighters: a $100 toll to be exact. When Engine Company No. 116 received a $100 bill from a toll road agency, firefighters figured it was just a misunderstanding. The engine company, based in Carson, fought the Palomar Mountain Fire in San Diego County for nearly a week and likely blew past the toll booth on its way there on the assumption that emergency vehicles are exempt from paying such tolls. I guess the The Transportation Corridor Agencies, which operates a network of toll roads in Orange County, made an ass of themselves on this one!

Capt. Bob Viers of the Los Angeles County Fire Department was tasked to sort it out with the Transportation Corridor Agencies. "You know this is a fire truck," Viers told a tollroad representative. "I can't believe you're fining us for it or even chasing it." But the toll road agency didn't back down. The firefighters would have to pay. "This individual was expecting not to pay a toll merely because he was an (emergency) plated vehicle," said Frank Barbagallo, deputy director of toll compliance.

The California Highway Patrol, state Department of Transportation, Orange County Sheriff's Department, Orange County Fire Authority and some police departments have free access. The Orange County Transportation Authority's transit vehicles are also exempt on the Foothill Eastern but not the LAFD which went out of their jurisdiction to save the homes of the people in Santiago Canyon. The TCA assesses a $47.50 processing fee on top of the toll amount due if notices are ignored. A subsequent violation notice tacks on an additional $47.50 fine. Viers talked to a manager, who said the firefighters had to pay $20 instead of $100. "I still thought that was ridiculous," Viers said.

The agency insisted the engine company pay up. To me, and I'm sure many of you, this is the most assinine and totally fits into the Discover Insanity files. I don't give a crap nor would I penalize any of the thousands of firefighters who daily risk life and limb to save our lives, our homes and our property. The Transportation Corridor Agencies is just another example of how corporate greed is out of control. Ultimately, Viers paid the $5 toll and there was no penalty. This whole story makes me sick. I think I'll send the firefighters a Starbuck's Gift Card. Pass the Cheer!