Monday, June 25, 2012
SAN DIEGO It's called the South Bay Expressway, and it was built and run by private companies that hoped to make a good return on investment. But State Route 125, a north-south freeway east of Interstate-805, has gotten little use by south-county motorists, thanks to a slumping economy and drivers' reluctance to pay the pricey tolls.
San Diego planners hope public ownership of the South Bay Expressway will mean that more people use it. Lower tolls begin on Saturday.
Officials at SANDAG, San Diego's planning agency, hope that will change as the agency takes over ownership of the freeway and reduces tolls by 30 to 40 percent.
Gary Gallegos is executive director of SANDAG, which has bought SR 125 for $341 million. He said the toll road's lack of use has jammed up I-805, south of I-8.
"You are seeing a lot of traffic on 805 because people are using the 805 to go around the toll road," said Gallegos. "And we're optimistic that by lowering those tolls it will provide the most mobility for South Bay."
SANDAG staffers anticipate their plan will add close to a million more trips per year on SR 125. Gallegos said SANDAG bought the freeway for $341 million, less than half the cost it would take to build it.
He said the original plan to privatize this freeway didn't work well for the private sector, which lost money in litigation and through lack of use. But it did work for San Diego.
"I think it worked out great. We got a road and, you know, somebody took a risk on it and we're still serving customers," said Gallegos. "I don't know that it worked out well for the private sector in this case."
This Saturday (June 30, 2012), SANDAG will put the toll reductions into effect. Tolls will be waved on Saturday between 9 a.m. and 2 p.m. to promote the event. Gallegos said once the debt on the road is paid off, the South Bay Expressway will be free for drivers to use.