Wednesday, May 4, 2011
SAN DIEGO San Diego State Senator Christine Kehoe caused a ruckus when she introduced a “transit first” bill that would have forced San Diego to build mass transit projects before it widened I-5 by six lanes. But political heat has melted the bill and it's molding it into a different form.
The new name of the measure seems to be “transit concurrent.” New language would require transit improvements in the freeway corridor to happen as the freeway’s being widened. Kehoe added, yesterday, that the bill would apply only to San Diego County and not to the entire California coastal region.
Local planners still don’t like it and they showed up yesterday in Sacramento at a transportation committee meeting that turned out to be confusing and comical.
Kehoe told the committee the language in the bill needed a lot of work but she asked them to pass it anyway and all the problems would be taken care of. Then a long line of speakers, including SANDAG Chairman Jerome Stocks, came up to say they opposed the bill and wanted to change it but they’d deal with that later.
Members of the committee said this spirit of cooperation seemed admirable but they were flummoxed by the process and had no clue what they’d be approving. In the end they basically said “whatever” and passed SB 468 on a 6-2 vote. It now heads to the appropriations committee.
Though the process was strange, the issue of transit-first is serious. SANDAG’s Regional Transportation Plan will cost close to $200 billion between now and 2050. It’s supposed to find a way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in San Diego, yet it includes a huge project to widen I-5.
Environmentalists say the law needs to insure that transit projects go in before highways are widened so traffic congestion can actually encourage people to take the trolley or the bus. SANDAG says state interference with local planning will create too much red-tape congestion.
Kehoe’s bill has already taken a butt whipping. We’ve yet to see whether it will be totally neutered. Stay tuned and you’ll find out.