The San Diego Association of Governments recently approved a resolution to eliminate the toll on State Route 125 by paying off its debt, saving some south bay commuters up to $3.50 each time the road is used.
SANDAG board members unanimously approved the resolution during a July 8 meeting, which supports establishing a plan to pay off $143.3 million by 2027. During a May 27 meeting, Chula Vista Mayor Mary Casillas Salas called on the board to pay off the debt in the coming years.
Opened in 2007, South Bay Expressway (SBX) Toll Road is a ten-mile stretch of State Route 125 (SR 125) that runs from Otay Mesa Road near State Route 905 to SR 54, and its the only toll road in the county. In December 2011, SANDAG purchased the SR 125 toll road franchise from its private sector owner, Southbay Expressway, LP.
“The Board of Directors’ purpose in purchasing the franchise was to reduce the tolls and improve mobility in the region by optimizing use of SR 125 and reduce congestion and the need for infrastructure improvements on other parallel roads,” Deputy Chula Vista City Manager Kelly Broughton wrote in a report to SANDAG.
Under SANDAG ownership, toll rates were reduced in June 2012, and both traffic and revenue growth surpassed initial expectations. Commuters are charged 50 cents to $3.50 for using the toll road.
By 2042, the agency must pay off the $180 million of bond payments.
“This $35 million difference between debt and cash on hand has prompted the proposed resolution to make a SANDAG priority the early elimination of debt and toll-only operations. Future SANDAG expenditure projections of over $65 million to replace and enhance toll facilities after FY 2027 along with over $73 million in interest payments that wouldn’t be needed if the debt were retired is added justification to support the resolution,” Broughton reported.
Staff is directed to evaluate alternatives to toll-only operations including managed lanes and control future toll road expenditures to increase cash on hand available to retire the debt by 2027. Staff will also conduct a multimodal corridor plan for the SR 125 to analyze future transportation options and options to retire the debt.