Valued at more than $1.4 billion, the State Route 91 Express Lanes project added two much-needed tolled express lanes and one mixed-flow lane in a heavily traveled Southern California corridor. The eight-mile stretch from Orange County to Interstate 15 opened this week to the relief of commuters. As general counsel to the Riverside County Transportation Commission, Best Best & Krieger LLP Partner Steve DeBaun assisted the agency in the implementation of the design build project from start to finish.
Beginning in 2010, BB&K assisted RCTC with the acquisition of several hundred parcels for the eight-mile project — one of the largest transportation projects in the history of Riverside County. This project required the filing of close to 100 eminent domain lawsuits, many of which we have negotiated settlements for without going to trial. Partner Mark Easter oversaw the eminent domain for the project.
In addition, Steve, along with Of Counsel Haviva Shane, negotiated numerous implementing agreements for the project. These include agreements with Caltrans to coordinate the construction of the toll road within the state right-of-way and set forth the parameters for the client’s use and maintenance of the toll road once constructed, and the project operator for operation once complete.
The project was a major undertaking involving federal, state and local permitting as well as comprehensive environmental review under both the National Environmental Policy Act and the California Environmental Quality Act. Partners Michelle Ouellette and Charity Schiller assisted the agency with all aspects of the permitting and environmental review process for the project.
We oversaw the preparation of environmental documents, negotiated contracts for the engagement of a project manager and other consultants, negotiated operating and facility agreements with the neighboring tolling authority (the Orange County Transportation Authority), drafted legislation permitting the operation of express lanes, negotiated cooperative agreements with Caltrans governing the construction and operation of the lanes and drafted toll operator agreements.
Finally, the firm is handling both construction contractor and property owner claims related to the project.