241 Foothill Toll Road, Orange County, Jerry Collamer

OC Toll Road: Empty, Failing, Better Used as Landing Strip


When a pilot instructor and student emergency-landed a small plane in the perpetually-empty northbound lanes of the debt-ridden, failing-business-model 241 toll road in Orange County, California, he exclaimed: “What a waste of perfectly good asphalt.” 

241 Foothill Toll Road, Orange County, Jerry Collamer
An Orange County pilot discovers miles of unused landing strip in the remote eastern region of OC. Landing on the unused strip, he marveled why other pilots weren’t utilizing the empty miles-long runway. Later, he learned it was the 241 Toll Road. His comment: “What a waste of perfectly good asphalt.” Toon by Jerry Collamer.

pilot makes unused 241-toll road a landing strip

Years back, I suggested publicly, Orange County Transportation Corridor Agencies (TCA’s) 51-miles of under-used toll roads, strapped as they are to an ever-plummeting business model: raising toll fares at rush hour thus keeping commuters on neighboring “freeways,” as TCA’s debt / interest payments on their road-loan balloons into the stratosphere with less and less drivers “tolling” – that a solution to TCA’s ever-failing business model, was to sell the underused 73 and 241 to Newport billionaires, to use as their personal super-speedway weekend fun-runs for their gazillion dollar stable of exotic sports cars.

Then on weekdays, allow us, the stalled-in-traffic commuters, to drive the ex-toll roads for free. A win-win! TCA dumps its endlessly burgeoning debt load (and angst), allowing their 51-miles of chronically under preforming toll roads to Go Free during the work-week.

I’ve suggested other ideas; what to do with OC’s 51-miles of empty toll roads: paved sports fields, outdoor bowling alleys, 51-miles of farmer’s markets, swap meet venues, skate parks etc – but the one I never thought of (duh) – private-plane landing strips. I’m chagrined. It’s so obvious.

Well on Sunday, Dec. 8, 2013, on the empty 241 toll road, nary a car in sight, a pilot’s dream came true, landing his single engine bird on the longest, emptiest, stretch of runway (241-toll road) he’d ever laid eyes on. So forget my Newport Billionaires Boys Car Club idea – and call John Wayne Intl. They’ve been thirsting to rid themselves of “small” (nuisance) flying machines.

Here it is – 51-miles of perfectly paved, auxiliary landing and take-off strips, totally empty and ready to go, “Cessna 1234 to Tower, request landing – Oso Parkway on 241-south.” – “Tower to C-1234, you are cleared for landing. There is absolutely no traffic there. There never is. Proceed C-1234.”

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