SANDAG Says Toll Road Is Succeeding

LA MESA -- The San Diego Association of Governments is crowing about its first year of management of the 125 Southbay Expressway, saying it has exceeded all revenue and traffic goals for the first year of its effort to salvage what had been a failing highway project.

SANDAG purchased the troubled highway, slashed its tolls and pursued marketing projects to cajole motorists from the I-805 and south county streets. According to its official statement, published in full below, the effort has relieved congestion on other streets while increasing usage on that newest portion of the 125 for motorists heading north to and through La Mesa and on to Mission Valley, the Golden Triangle and other points north.

What the SANDAG report does not do is comment on the impact higher usage of the 125 has had at the confluence of lanes and exits where the 125, I-8 and the 94 meet in La Mesa. During morning and evening rush hours, the 125, as it passes through La Mesa, can look like a parking lot and any plans to improve movement from the 125 south to the 94 East still appears to be years away on the Caltrans dance card.

The SANDAG announcement reads:

Sunday, June 30, marked the first anniversary of 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.

To learn more about the South Bay Expressway, visit SBXthe125.com.

 

 

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Tags: Government, La Mesa Today, La Mesa news, La Mesa newspaper, SANDAG, Southbay Expressway

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