Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
Watch Live

Last Day of Public Hearings for San Diego Transportation Plan

Today is the last day for public comment on a Draft 2007 Regional Transportation Plan for San Diego. The plan is updated every four years. It's the blueprint of how to spend billions of dollars to avo

Today is the last day for public comment on a Draft 2007 Regional Transportation Plan for San Diego. The plan is updated every four years. It's the blueprint of how to spend billions of dollars to avoid gridlock, and make life bearable for commuters. KPBS reporter Alison St John attended a public hearing on the plan.

Michael Hix, of the San Diego Association of Governments or SANDAG is project manager for the updated Transportation Plan . He admits the future present a challenge.

Hix: You know, there's three million people here now, three million people that are already fighting congestion in their daily lives, We're saying that by the year 2030 there'll be 4 million people.

SANDAG projects there will be $58 billion of state and federal money to spend on transportation. The plan includes widening freeways, double tracking the Coaster line, building bike paths and boosting express bus service.

The plans would pay for some of the freeway widening in the north and south ends of the county by building toll roads. 

Sarah Turitto, a mother from North County, is adamantly against that idea.

Turitto:  No on toll roads, I'm so much against this, I feel it's a fraud, because we are already paying through taxes for roads and extra lanes on the freeway.

But SANDAG analysts say local tax dollars just wont be enough.


Tom Bartley of Point Loma wants to see one per cent of the money go to more creative demonstration projects.

Bartley: Like magnetic levitation, linear electric propulsion guided vehicle lands trams, gondolas, exotic bus rapid transit, hybrid type of hybrid rail systems or other creative innovations. San Diego cannot use the same old approaches with massive amounts of concrete and steel and six lane highways to build its way to better transportation.

The SANDAG staff admit they can’t build their way out of the growth crunch ahead. They encourage the member cities to build new development near existing roads and transit corridors, rather than creating sprawl further and further out of town.

But even though SANDAG is made up of representatives from the region's 18 cities, the County and other government agencies, it has no authority to decide land use.

Veteran environmental advocate, Duncan McFetrich of Save our Forests and Ranchlands , says development should be planned around transit corridors, not the other way around.

McFetrich: If we had transit based communities we could get our entire population in 30 square miles. We do not have to subdivide out orchards, and our open space, we need a better plan.

Inner city communities have their gripes too. People in City Heights for ex38le say Interstate 15 cuts through their neighborhood but the trolley passes them by.

The Transportation Plan splits transit money about 50 /50 between encouraging public transport and expanding roads. Most of the extra freeway lanes being built, like the ones being built right now on Interstate 15, are flexible lanes that can be used for express buses, or carpools or even converted to toll lanes at certain times.

The plan focuses on the north/south interstates, and developers say they're frustrated because the east west 56 freeway is not slated for work for years.

Trains like the Coaster and the new Sprinter line take some pressure off the roads.

But in Del Mar, residents like Sharon Fieraben are vehemently against the plan to build a tunnel for the Coaster line under the city and neighboring lagoons.

Fieraben: Del Mar residents will not accept a tunnel and the destruction of our last six precious lagoons. Del Mar residents intend to fight this.

Residents have long resented the trains rumbling by their million-dollar views

But SANDAG's Michael Hix says ridership on the Coaster is increasing.

Hix: I mean, if we could start all over again we probably wouldn't put the rail right along the coast, we would move it, but we're working with what we have in place now and what's the best solution in that regard.

Hix says faced with a million extra people in 25 years, even $58 billion doesn't go far. In terms of deciding priorities, SANDAG is where the rubber meets the road. A final vote on the transportation plan is scheduled for November. 

Alison St John, KPBS News.