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Enviros Suing San Diego Planners Over Transportation Plan

Groups Claim Plan Would Increase Pollution, Urban Sprawl

Two environmental groups are suing a San Diego agency over a county-wide transportation plan. The groups said the plan is from another century.

The Cleveland National Forest Foundation and the Center for Biological Diversity filed the lawsuit Monday in San Diego Superior Court.

They claim the San Diego Association of Governments 2050 Regional Transportation Plan/Sustainable Communities Strategy ignores the need for public transit and will worsen urban sprawl and air pollution.

The agency approved its $200 billion transportation plan in October.

Jack Shu is President of the Cleveland National Forest Foundation.

He said the SANDAG plan invests mainly in expanding and extending freeways, which will promote sprawl.

"It also affects people in the urban areas with regards to increased pollution, increased asthma," said Shu. "We want cleaner air, not more asthma."

Shu, Duncan McFetridge and Murtaza Baxamusa, all represented the Cleveland National Forest Foundation. They used the San Diego Amtrak Station as the backdrop to announce the lawsuit in pointing out the need for more public transit options in the SANDAG plan.

"We don't need to spend money doing what we've been doing for the past 40 years when we can change and build a better community for our own citizens," Shu said.

The groups said SANDAG is the first agency to develop a Regional Transportation Plan since enactment of the 2008 California law which requires plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Duncan McFetridge said the plan fails to address the need for for livable, transit-oriented communities.

"There are some parts of the SANDAG plan that sound very attractive, there's a lot of transit investment for example, but it's off in the future," said McFetridge. "And the kind of challenge that we face is now. And if we don't invest now, we won't reap the benefits later."

Economist Murtaza Baxamusa said the proposed plan fails in three key areas.

"One is cleaner air, second is more jobs and third is efficient land use," Baxamusa said. "We as San Diegans want to preserve our quality of life. We want faster ways to get to work so we're not traffic-gridlocked, like Los Angeles."

Baxamusa said transit-friendly development creates jobs and shorter commute times.

"Study after study has shown that investing in sustainable transportation infrastructure that is transit-centered is more efficient in terms of creating jobs and is good for workers, productivity as well," Baxamusa said.

Throughout the planning process, opponents of the plan have urged SANDAG to prioritize transit investments in the urban core and reject extending freeways into the far reaches of the county.

"SANDAG's plan flies in the face of everything we know about climate change," said Kevin Bundy, senior attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity. "The science is clear: We need ambitious, lasting reductions in climate pollution by 2050, and that means livable communities with access to transit systems that really work. More freeways and sprawl won't get us there."

In a statement, SANDAG commented that its staff has not had time to review the lawsuit in detail, so they could not comment on the specifics.

"However, we stand by the 2050 Regional Transportation Plan, its Sustainable Communities Strategy, and their Environmental Impact Report," said Gary Gallegos, SANDAG Executive Director. "We are confident that they represent a balanced approach that serves the entire region, creating a multimodal transportation system that gives travelers more choices, meets our environmental goals, and responsibly invests taxpayer funds."


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