Tuesday, May 10, 2011
Legislation that sought to slow the controversial expansion of Interstate-5 in San Diego has been taken down a notch. But the people behind it say it still has some teeth.
SAN DIEGO Legislation that was meant to slow the expansion of Interstate-5 in San Diego pulled into the breakdown lane a couple of weeks ago, but sponsor Chris Kehoe said an amended version is back on the legislative freeway.
When State Senator Kehoe introduced SB 468, it required that transit projects in the I-5 corridor be built before the freeway could be expanded. The controversial plan to widen I-5 by six lanes is part of the Regional Transportation Plan (RTP) of the San Diego Association of Governments. The RTP funds local transportation projects for the next 40 years at a cost of nearly $200 billion.
“We wanted to make transit a bigger part and a sooner part of the 40-year project,” said Kehoe. “We are still doing that to some extent but it's not as strong as it was in the first version of the bill.”
The revised bill only assures transit projects will occur while the freeway expansion takes place. Political opposition to the original bill was intense and it took a toll. But Kehoe still believes her proposal will change the freeway project for the better.
"Our bill is successfully putting this project on a diet,” she said. “It will be smaller. I hope it will be more cost-efficient, and it will have a very robust transit component."
Mass transit promoters argue that you need some freeway congestion to encourage people to get out of their cars and take mass transit. Among the transit plans related to the I-5 corridor is one that would double-track the Coaster commuter rail line, which runs from Oceanside to downtown San Diego. Reducing automobile miles is required by state legislation aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
About a week ago, SB 468 passed the State Senate’s transportation committee. It was a odd display in which both opponents and supporters told committee members the bill needed lots of work, but they should please pass it anyway and it would be fixed later.
Kehoe said such things do happen.
San Diego planners say SB 468 still puts too many restrictions on freeway construction. The devil is in the details and both sides say if details can be worked out, Kehoe's bill will emerge from the political traffic jam.