CHULA VISTA (CNS) - Motorists got a few hours of free travel on San Diego's only toll road Saturday, then began paying much lower tolls following public takeover of the lightly-used, privately-owned project, a San Diego Association of Governments officials said.
"Today marks the start of a new era for the South Bay Expressway and this fast-growing part of our region," said Jerome Stocks, SANDAG chairman and mayor of Encinitas.
The tollway extends from the Otay Mesa border crossing north to Route 54 at Jamacha. It parallels Interstate 805 and has not attracted huge amounts of traffic from that busy freeway.
SANDAG acquired the lease to operate the South Bay Expressway from a private company in December and the revamped toll structure was approved by the Board of Directors in May.
"By lowering tolls, we are optimistic that we will give this area an economic boost and improve resident's quality of life by providing a fast, convenient and affordable alternative to the I-805 and local arterial roads," Stocks said.
The new toll rates for those with a FasTrak electronic tolling account ranged from 50 cents to $2.75 per trip, compared to previous tolls ranging from 85 cents to $3.85.
Those using cash or credit cards at toll booths will now be charged between $2 and $3.50. Previous tolls were $2.50 to $4.
"We are following through with our promise to taxpayers to lower tolls on the South Bay Expressway," Stocks said. "We are optimistic that lower tolls will draw traffic away from nearby congested arterial streets and Interstate 805, improving overall mobility in South Bay."
To mark the start of the lower tolls, travel was free on the four- lane tollway from 9 a.m. until 2 p.m., SANDAG officials said.
SANDAG was the first in the nation to voluntarily institute across-the- board price cuts on an existing toll road, officials with the organization said.
"At a time when prices on everything are going up, we are doing something that is virtually unheard of in this country," Stocks said.
A family-friendly carnival was at the Otay Ranch Town Center to celebrate the lowered tolls. The event featured live music, a classic car show and a 50-foot truck filled with video game consoles, SANDAG officials said.
Variable tolls have been collected on the southern end of Route 125 since it was built. Sixty cent tolls used to be collected on the San Diego-Coronado Bay Bridge, but that ended in 2002.
Police officials in Carlsbad plan to hold a community meeting Thursday to apprise the public of law enforcement efforts to identify and track down a prowler who has been lurking around and sneaking into homes in the northern reaches of the city.
A suspect armed with a knife and gun was fatally shot by police officers early Thursday morning outside an Oceanside shopping center, police said.
Parents and staffers at a South Bay elementary school on Thursday demanded answers after a popular principal was suddenly reassigned without explanation.
The News 8 Crimefighters are helping authorities in a manhunt looking for Kristian Alexis Brito. If you have information call CrimeStoppers at (888) 580-TIPS. A reward is being offered for his arrest and remember you can make a tip and still remain anonymous.
There are renewed calls for more fan protection at ball parks after a terrifying accident at Yankee Stadium.
The Escondido Police Department is mourning the loss of two retired K-9 officers who died one day apart earlier this month.
The City of El Cajon is taking steps to stop Hepatitis A from spreading as San Diego is battling an outbreak.
Authorities captured 25 suspected drug dealers Thursday during a wide-ranging North County enforcement sweep.