Taxpayers and commuters will benefit twice under a now complete acquisition of the South Bay Toll Road. The road, purchased for approximately one-third of its original construction cost – or $341.5 million – saves local residents not only the cost of an additional road, but saves more than $268 million because now the area does not need to construct additional carpool lanes.

Commuters should benefit from planned toll cuts on the road, which should increase overall usage.

Beginning Dec. 22nd SANDAG will be the operator of the South Bay facility.

“Drivers on the South Bay Expressway will see no immediate changes,” said SANDAG Board Chair and Encinitas Mayor Jerome Stocks. “But in the coming months, the Board will move to cut the tolls, bringing congestion relief to South Bay decades sooner than previously planned, removing the need to build other facilities elsewhere, and saving $268 million in taxpayer money.”

After an exhaustive due diligence and public hearing process, the SANDAG Board of Directors voted Dec. 16 to purchase the asset for $341.5 million. 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.

No significant changes are expected in the first few months. SANDAG has contracted with the former operator and is retaining the existing staff to continue running the facility during a six-month transition phase. SANDAG will oversee the operations.

Next spring, SANDAG expects to begin a process to lower tolls. Reduced tolls are expected to attract more users 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 on I-805 in the future, with the end result being a $268 million savings to taxpayers.)