Toll Road officials Thursday celebrated the 20th anniversary of the FasTrak pass which allows motorists get through toll booths without having to stop and pay cash.
Brian Clifton, a retired Irvine police sergeant, was the first to get a pass and use it when the 241 Toll Road opened in Orange County, and he appeared with officials from the state's Transportation Corridor Agencies at an event at the Tomato Springs Toll Plaza to mark the anniversary.
Clifton was first approached by a state official to help coordinate police chaperones for when tolls were delivered to banks, he said.
"That never came to pass, but (the state official) likes me and asked me, where do you live?" Clifton said. "I told him Trabuco Canyon and he asked me, 'Will you be using the toll roads?"'
Clifton was eager to use the new toll road because "it would get me to work faster," he said.
Clifton can't recall exactly how the first FasTrak pass worked two decades ago.
"I think back then you had a pre-loaded account for an amount," Clifton said. "Now you just put a transponder in your car and away you go and they have the accounts hooked up to a MasterCard or Visa."
Clifton is a regular toll road user, he said.
"It's just a part of our lives," he said. "I don't know what we would do without them."
Clifton works part-time at John Wayne Airport helping travelers with questions.
"I tell my wife I'm the Wal-Mart greeter at John Wayne Airport," Clifton said.
Clifton retired from the Irvine police force about a dozen years ago. He worked for the Gardena and Irvine police for 26 years combined.
As for the added expense of the toll roads, Clifton said it's worth it.
"If you're sitting on the 5 Freeway you're wasting gas, time and not to mention the wear and tear on your car. All that stuff adds up and I don't think people realize that," Clifton said. "The cost is secondary to the time saved."
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– City News Service.