San Diego Business Journal

The SANDAG Board of Directors approved the reinstatement of SR 125 toll violations starting January 5, 2021.

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting economic impacts, the Board of Directors approved waiving all toll violations on the South Bay Expressway in April 2020, including the practice of placing vehicle registration holds for non-payment of violations. FasTrak monthly maintenance fees were also suspended.

“As we ease back into the practice of issuing violations, we are keeping those most affected by the pandemic in mind,” said SANDAG Chair and Poway Mayor Steve Vaus. “While we recognize that we must keep moving forward to meet our financial obligations, we will continue to work with the public so that they have access to this critical South Bay connection.”

As the reinstatement of toll violations begins, SANDAG will offer three temporary relief measures.

• The FasTrak account maintenance fee requiring minimum monthly toll usage will continue to be waived

• The timeframe to use Pay-by-Plate to pay a toll before receiving a violation will extend from the standard four-day period to 10 days

• The timeframe to pay a violation will extend from 30 days to 60 days

“The long-range goal is to eliminate the tolls a hundred percent,” said Chula Vista Mayor Mary Salas at the Dec. 18 SANDAG Board meeting. “But we have to do it in a way that we meet our obligations to pay down the debt service … and with the suspension of violations, that's getting harder and harder to do.”

In 2017, the Board reduced the total debt service on SR 125 by refinancing a Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act loan through the sale of fixed-rate Revenue Bonds.

Among the financial requirements set forth in the bond covenants is maintenance of a Debt Service Coverage Ratio of 1.50x (revenues must equal 1.50 times the amount of annual debt service after deducting operating expenses).

The suspension of toll violations, as well as the reduction in traffic caused by the pandemic, has led to a 31% decrease in total SR 125 revenues through Q1 of FY 2021. Though traffic has begun to slowly recover since its low point in March 2020, revenues are not currently on track to meet the Debt Service Coverage Ratio by the year’s end.

The South Bay Expressway is a 10-mile stretch of SR 125 that runs through eastern Chula Vista between Otay Mesa Road and SR 54 in Spring Valley. Tolls range from 50 cents to $3.50 each way, depending on the distance covered and the use of FasTrak versus cash or credit.