More traffic is good news?
In this particular case, maybe.
Just a few weeks after lowering tolls, San Diego’s regional transportation agency tracked an uptick in traffic on the southern end of state Route 125 -- a 10-mile stretch of toll road that cuts through eastern Chula Vista.
The San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG) also reported a record-setting day Friday with nearly 33,640 trips on the road.
“Last week our average weekday traffic was about 31,500 per day versus 26,500 for the same period last year which is about a 19 percent increase,” Spokeswoman Helen Gao said in an email Monday evening.
SANDAG acquired rights to operate San Diego County’s only toll road after the private company that owned it went bankrupt in 2010 largely because of declining traffic. It was able to lower rates by shifting about $134 million from a project to expand the I-805, which it used to pay down some of the South Bay Expressway’s debt.
The government agency voted in May to lower rates by 25 to 40 percent, hoping to attract motorists. Toll savings for drivers ranges from about 50-cents to $2.75 per trip, depending on congestion on nearby, free alternative routes and payment methods.
The tollway extends from the Otay Mesa border crossing north to Route 54 at Jamacha. It also runs parallel to Interstate 805. Regional and local officials hope the 125 can lure drivers away from the 805 to mitigate impacts of heavy traffic there.
Some residents remained skeptical that the slight decrease in price would encourage drivers to use the road more.
“No. It’s still too high. It needs to be 5-cents. I would not drive on it. No, I wouldn’t drive on it for $2.50 either,” Otay resident Leanna Terrell told NBC 7 San Diego in June.
Regional experts see the successful operation of the tollway as a lifeline to growth on Chula Vista’s vast east side. Business at the Otay Ranch Town Center, an upper-end mall in eastern Chula Vista, has languished, but local leaders remain hopeful it will pick-up with the reduced rates.
“With tolls going down and more people using the expressway, more people can visit the Otay Ranch Town Center,” said Cindy Gompper-Graves, the president of the South County Economic Development Council. “As we look forward at development of the University Park and Millenia, all those folks need to have highway access also and the 125 offers that.”
Gompper-Graves added that the road’s extension to Mexico entices commercial developers hoping to bring clientele from south of the border.
SANDAG plans to attract 1 million additional vehicle trips per year.