After a thorough due diligence process and public discussion, the SANDAG Board of Directors gave final approval to buy the lease to operate the State Route 125 toll road from South Bay Expressway. The sale is expected to close Dec. 21.

“Buying the SR 125 franchise is one of the smartest moves we can make on behalf of taxpayers in this region,” Encinitas Mayor and SANDAG Board Chair Jerome Stocks said. “As a result of the acquisition and our future action to swap projects in the South Bay, we will save the region $268 million and eliminate the need to condemn numerous homes and properties to expand Interstate 805. Just as importantly, we will bring congestion relief to the South Bay decades sooner than expected. Furthermore, the traveling public will benefit from lower tolls.”

The Board agreed to pay $341.5 million for the asset – roughly one-third of what a private consortium spent to build the toll road. The facility stretches for about 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.

Users of the toll road will notice no immediate changes to operations or the tolls. SANDAG has contracted with South Bay Expressway to continue operating the facility during a transition phase. SANDAG will oversee the operations.

In the coming months, after all the necessary elements of the transaction are completed, SANDAG expects to begin a process to lower tolls by 40 to 50 percent of the current rates. Reduced tolls are expected to attract more traffic to SR 125, relieving congestion on I-805 and reducing the need for some improvements there. (Construction will begin in 2012 on two carpool lanes – one in each direction – on I-805 in South Bay. However, the acquisition of SR 125 will make it unnecessary to add another two carpool lanes in the future, eliminating a large portion of the cost of expansion.)

The SANDAG finance plan calls for reducing the tolls on SR 125 as much as possible while still generating enough revenue to pay for operations and maintenance, debt service, future improvements, and contingencies.