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Ballot Measure To Improve Traffic Flow In Coronado

Audio

Aired 2/23/10

People in Coronado will vote this June on a ballot measure to improve traffic flow on the island. The idea of a tunnel has been under review for years, but not everyone wants it. We spoke with Jim Benson, interim city manager for the city of Coronado, about the tunnel. We first asked him where it would be located.

People who live in Coronado will vote this June on a ballot measure to improve traffic flow on the island. The idea of a tunnel has been under review for years, but not everyone wants it. I spoke with Jim Benson, interim city manager for the city of Coronado, about the tunnel, and where it would be located.

JIM BENSON: It would come off of the Coronado/San Diego bridge, as it comes off the bridge, go down into the tunnel, go underneath the community, and then come back up in the vicinity of North Island and the Naval Air Station.

DWANE BROWN: The Navy is bring a third aircraft carrier back to North Island in a couple of months. How might that effect traffic flow into Coronado?

BENSON: The traffic projections, and the Navy pretty much agrees with this out of some stuff they did for their supplemental care EIS, it acknowledges about 5,000 additional trips a day, when a carrier is in port. So if you have all three carriers in, on top of the normal traffic, you get about 15,000 additional trips.

BROWN: How would this project be paid for?

BENSON: That's one of the major issues. There is a separate financial study that looks at different alternatives that are there. That has not been arrived at now. And part of it really depends on what the preferred alternative -- there's the term of art that's in the environmental process when all input has been solicited from other agencies and the City Council and the public, the Council will make a choice on a preferred alternative. It really depends on what the preferred alternative is, in terms of projected cost, but then you can nail down more where to go for money, and how much money is needed, and in what time frames.

BROWN: Some people who live island are against putting a toll back on Coronado bridge. Is that a concern?

BENSON: Well, absolutely, we knew all along that that was a potential source of revenue, if not the only source, and we knew that some people would not like that. And the unfortunate things that's going on right now, is with the recession, and economic conditions, where we know that the traffic on all the freeways is down. That does include what happens on the bridge, so people have a tendency to forget, in 2002 for instance, during the month of July, and extending on into the fall, there were some three carriers in, and the bridge had over 90,000 trips a day, average. What was painfully pointed out, is that the circulation system, through Coronado, to get to the bases and to the hotels and the beach, failed with those kinds of numbers. It was virtual gridlock. So the numbers are back down, but I just checked, and last fall the numbers were still, even with only one carrier in, the numbers were averaging about 79,000 cars a day, that's right at the area where things fail. And periodically something goes wrong. A small accident, the signals aren't perfect -- we can back traffic, especially in the mornings, clear across the bridge, and it impacts I-5, both north and south, where it'll back them up clear into San Diego back on the s-curve, it'll back them down to 15, where 15 meets I-5.

BROWN: Jim, since much of the traffic is Navy personnel headed to North Island, is the military contributing financially to this project?

BENSON: They have no designated money at this time. They do participate, and comment, and sit in on some of the committees. The Navy's like other entities, like federal highways and CalTrans, I think pretty much everybody acknowledges, to differing degrees, that there's a problem, in the past, and that there may be a problem in the future. Projections out of our traffic studies say that there will be over 100,000 trips a day that would be encountered. So, while people acknowledge it, within these tough financial times, everybody wants somebody else to pay. So the Navy is just one party to that whole problem of being reluctant to pay for something.

BROWN: If this tunnel measure gets approved by voters in June, when would it be built?

BENSON: Right now, with the -- and there's a version of a tunnel, that was requested and that CalTrans requires that we study it, that's additional cost, and additional time. The environmental is expected right now to be finished by 2012. The point then is what alternative is selected by the City Council, do we get other partners in this -- SANDAG and the Navy, to agree with the preferred alternative, and then to go out and seek the funding.

PAMELA DAVIS: And that is Jim Benson, interim city manager for the city of Coronado.

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