SAN DIEGO–SANDAG, operator of the South Bay Expressway toll road, refinanced its outstanding loans by securing a more conservative level debt service structure that will save more than $147 million over the life of the 26-year loans. This equates to $88 million in present value.
The winning financial strategy comes in the same month that the State Route 125 toll road, South Bay Expressway, celebrates a decade in service. SANDAG purchased the Expressway for $351 million in December 2011 from creditors following a bankruptcy. The ten-mile toll road improved mobility in and from the South County.
Within months of the purchase, the SANDAG Board of Directors strategically lowered toll rates up to 40 percent to relieve traffic congestion on arterial roads in eastern Chula Vista and on the southern portion of Interstate 805, making it possible to forego widening of a portion of I-805.
“Our strategy worked,” said County Supervisor and SANDAG Chair Ron Roberts. “SANDAG closed on an extremely favorable refinancing opportunity, which reduces the costs to run the South Bay Expressway, a vital link serving residents throughout the region. SANDAG lowered tolls and now we lowered the loan financing costs by tens of millions. We are very pleased.”
In September 2017, the SANDAG Board of Directors voted to reduce the total debt service and approved the refinancing of the San Diego County Regional Transportation Commission and the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA) loans used to purchase the toll road through the sale of $194 million of fixed-rate Series 2017 Revenue Bonds.
SR 125 South Bay Expressway received a rating of “A” from Standard & Poor’s and “A-” from Fitch. When the bonds were sold late last week, investor interest was high. The bonds were sold to 40 different investors, which enabled SANDAG to reduce interest rates from the initial offering.
The South Bay Expressway is operated by SANDAG and has seen increased use since SANDAG acquired the toll road just under six years ago. SANDAG operates the toll road under a Development Franchise Agreement with the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) through January 8, 2043. The SANDAG Board of Directors sets the rates for the tolls. With the cost savings resulting from the refinance, the SANDAG Board could avoid potential future toll increases, which would benefit all users of the South Bay Expressway.
The toll road opened one decade ago on November 19, 2007. The South Bay Expressway four-lane toll road that offers a congestion-free alternative to the region’s South County roads and highways, particularly Interstate 805. It extends from Otay Mesa Road/State Route 905 in Otay Mesa near the international border, north through eastern Chula Vista to State Route 54 in Spring Valley. The toll road is equipped with technology to collect tolls electronically via FasTrak transponders mounted on motorists’ windshields, so they can bypass pay stations at full highway speeds. FasTrak account holders receive a discount on tolls compared to cash/credit paying users.