SAN DIEGO–June 30 marked the first anniversary of San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG) having cut tolls by up to 40 percent for using South Bay Expressway (State Route 125 toll road). Results to date indicate that the toll reduction strategy is working: SANDAG is exceeding usage expectations and meeting revenue targets set as part of the strategic plan for acquiring the toll road.
SANDAG bought the lease to operate South Bay Expressway in December 2011 with the primary goal of diverting traffic off of I-805 and local streets in Chula Vista. The higher traffic volume seen on South Bay Expressway following the toll reduction indicates that traffic is being shifted to the toll road.
In May 2012, the SANDAG Board of Directors – composed of elected officials from throughout the region – cut toll prices effective June 30, 2012 and adopted four ambitious marketing goals for fiscal year 2013 (the first year of toll road operations). SANDAG has surpassed all four goals:
Goal: Increase local trips within Chula Vista by 15 percent
Local trips between Birch Road and East H Street in Chula Vista have increased more than 50 percent in fiscal year 2013, compared to fiscal year 2012.
Goal: Increase overall usage of the SR 125 toll road by 15 percent
Total trips for fiscal year 2013 exceeded 11.65 million, 22 percent higher than what it was forecast to be if tolls were not reduced.
Goal: Increase FasTrak® electronic toll accounts by 10 percent
FasTrak accounts currently total more than 31,000, nearly 16 percent growth in new customers since the Board approved the toll reduction.
Goal: Increase FasTrak transponders in circulation by 15 percent
South Bay Expressway now has more than 54,000 FasTrak transponders in circulation, an increase of about 20 percent since the launch of the toll reduction program.
With toll revenues slightly exceeding the $21 million target for fiscal year 2013, SANDAG is meeting its requirements for covering operating costs, funding maintenance reserves, and scheduled debt service payments. Tolls now range from 50 cents to $2.75 for customers with a FasTrak electronic tolling account and from $2 to $3.50 for cash and credit card users.
“SANDAG took over an underperforming facility that was not serving the needs of the community well. In a short period of time, we’ve been able to turn South Bay Expressway around and put it on firm financial footing,” SANDAG Chair and Santee Councilmember Jack Dale said. “Residents and businesses are benefiting from lower tolls, and we are seeing traffic from local Chula Vista streets shift to the toll road, providing congestion relief to neighborhoods.”
Last summer, SANDAG launched a retail partnership with Costco to expand the toll road customer base. About 3,500 transponders have been distributed through stores in Chula Vista and La Mesa, where customers receive $5 in free toll credits with Costco membership.
South Bay Expressway stretches for 10 miles through eastern Chula Vista from State Route 905 near the Otay Mesa Port of Entry to State Route 54 near the Sweetwater Reservoir. The highway provides quick and convenient travel choices between eastern Chula Vista, Downtown San Diego, East County, Sorrento Valley, I-8, I-15, Otay Mesa, and Mexico. Many major shopping, entertainment, recreational, and educational destinations, such as Otay Ranch Town Center, the Olympic Training Center, and Southwestern College are located off the highway.