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San Diego Community Groups Launch Petition To Stop Route 94 Expansion

San Diego Community Groups Launch Petition To Stop Route 94 Expansion
San Diego Community Groups Launch Petition To Stop Route 94 Expansion GUESTS: Monique Lopez, policy advocate, Environmental Health Coalition Gustavo Dallarda, corridor director, Caltrans

This is one of the projects those parts of the measure that was approved by 2/3 of the voters in San Diego County. At that time the voters rasp whether they want to -- these kind of project really traffic congestion and improve safety and also leverage state and federal funds that we can bring into the region to approve our transportation system. Specifically state Route 94 was one of the projects where the measure call for adding them to carpool lanes that could be used for a transit system coming from the eye 15 corridor and also a second transit system coming from the 85 corridor. I gave the alliance of the expansion project in the opening, but could you describe the project a little bit more for us? I know there are alternatives that you are looking at. If you could give us an idea of how high the new overhead lanes might be, how long that expansion might extend? Yes, absolutely. We are talking about a approximately if three-mile section of state Route 94 between downtown San Diego interstate 805 ago the project starts on interstate 805, just south of 94 where we would build a direct connection that would start from the middle of 805 with existing carpool lanes ends then it would take the vehicles, carpools and transit vehicles only over 94 and Route them into the middle of 94. Where then there would be one HOV lane or one carpool lane in each direction feeding into downtown San Diego. How long would that overhead be then? Along with that -- that you have different alternatives? Yes, absolutely. We have two alternatives that work basically. One goes from 805 and touches down just east of State Route 15 so it is about three quarters of a mile long. On that alternative we have to reconstruct the state Route 15 and 94 interchange because as less handed ramps that would conflict with the carpool lanes at that location. The second alternative that we are looking goes over the interchange so starts at the same spot on 805 goes over the interchange and with a approximately at 28th Street so the second alternative we are looking at is about 2 miles long for that connector. What's the main purpose of the expansion to bring people from where to where? The main purpose is to provide options to commuters. Right now there isn't a transit system on 805 so the region has invested in a brand-new transit system that will start in a couple of years and it is bringing people from -- and also to Vista national city up the 805 corridor and up to 94 to be able to access the downtown of women centers and also other facilities in downtown. So the concept would be to have these buses be rapid transit? At silly. They would be very similar to the rapid that we have going on coming down from Escondido into downtown San Diego be at the I-15 corridor, it would be the same exact concept. Please lanes just like the I-15 would also be available for carpoolers so it is basically to provide options to people to encourage them to leave their car behind. In the South Bay? In the South Bay. What about the people in the neighborhood surrounding the highway 94 expansion? Do they get any benefit out of it? They get some benefit out of it. They cannot use the lanes because the area is so short it is only if three-mile section. You have basically two Freeway to view a connector in that area that's hard to get people from nearby communities down into the middle of the freeway so they can actually use these lanes. But they will benefit from the project in other areas. The big part of our project is to provide operational safety improvements to the existing freeway. The freeway was built in the late get these. Was built for a totally different type of car, different speeds. There are seven interchanges within a three-mile section. Up to today's standards you need at least 10 miles to provide those kind of interchanges. So a lot of what we're doing is to improve the ways that people get in and out of 94 out of the existing ramps by providing longer merges coming into the freeway and also leaving the freeway. As I mentioned one of the alternatives also proposes to reconstruct the left-handed connectors at 15 and 94. Those are problematic. People usually don't expect to get on and off a freeway from the left-hand and what you see sometimes people coming in from the ramps on the right side of the freeway crossing three or four lanes try to rush to the left to catch one of the ramps. That creates weaving, serious weaving and will safety concern. Let me bring Monique Lopez of environmental health coalition into our conversation. The premature health coalition is opposed to this expansion I understand. What are some of the reasons that you are against it? Maureen, we see this as a system e-mail and other prove mobility not only locally but also regionally as well. Would've. One of the things we are really concerned about is that of freeways are weighted to put more cars through it actually increases vehicle mile traveled. Would actually increases air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions as well. So adding another lane which would allow for cars to go through is going to disproportionately benefit communities along the 94 Freeway corridor the Martin Luther King Freeway that's already heavily impacted from air pollution. So what we would like to see our innovative community-based solutions Incorporated into the environmental impact report to ensure that these committees aren't further impacted. But another one of our main concerns as well is throughout the entire impact community there's not going to be one single transit stop for folks in those neighborhoods to access the rapid transit bus that will be coming from the South Bay. So that access denied for us is justice denied so that's another concern of ours as well. What would you like to have Caltrans do instead? What we are asking them to do and it is not just us asking them to do. We havethe support of over 500 residents website the petition and submitted that both Caltrans and Sandag. We also have the support of David Alvarez and Marty Emerald on the record. We also have the support of Chile however and [Indiscernible] on the record. What we would like SANDAG in Caltrans to do is to incorporate solutions, incorporate alternatives to be ready and the environmental impact report that do not widen freeways but allow for transit, real transit benefits to exist in the corridor so some of these things include looking at specifically looking at using the media and in certain areas for transit only dream high peak times and also looking at potentially general lane conversion for both carpool and transit as well. So we also have studies from SANDAG as well that show that these things will work. But we'd really like to see at the end of the day is a project in place that protects the health of the community and has real transit benefits for not only the region but also for those who live near I those local neighborhood. Gustavo Cowen of the Kristen Stewart East against this project is that the managed lane is if you put in a high-speed managed lane on top of that area of 94, will it actually increase the amount of people who use public transportation? Or will it just basically be a faster way for cars to get from here to there? Absolutely adding the carpool lane to be used dedicated -- by dedicated busses will improve our transit system and push some people from leaving their cars and jumping on the rapid bus system which we've seen this on I-15. Ridership has increased on transit on I-15 by over 40% since it opened and it is only been a year. MPS is doing a great job operating that service and we expect that the patronage will continue to rise. I would like to make sure that one thing is clear when Monique talks about the disproportionate effect on the community. This project is being built mostly, entirely on the existing right of way of the freeway. There are very little impacts going outside of the right way. There are some, but they are very, very minimal areas where we need to go outside of the right-of-way. We are actually trying to do this project within the freeway and that is something that we have had over 80 presentations and public meetings, that is something we heard loud and clear from the community that they didn't want us to go into outside of the freeway proper What about what Monique was suggesting and that is to take one of the lanes that already exist and dedicate that Wayne at least partially some of the time or even all of the time to this high-speed rapid transit way? We furred two ideas. That's one of them. Theproblem with that idea is that it just creates more congestion. If you take the lane and you convert it where going to have more congestion and this stretch is one of the top 10 bottlenecks in the region coming into San Diego in the morning if you take a lane and converted to HOV, then you will have more congestion out there which will decrease the air quality for the communities of nearby. It doesn't -- it is not consistent with the regional press petition plan and it is not consistent with the transit -- approved by the board we've seen in 2000 forth, the transit measure was very clear that we would add to HOV brains in the stretch of 94, not convert it. So the argument there Monique is that it is going to take an area that already has very heavy traffic and bottleneck make it even worse. I'm really glad that Gustavo bought up the issue of congestion because the planning and transportation research shows that adding or widening freeways is not a solution to congestion and what usually see is that within a four to five year window you see levels of congestion rising to the same level that it was before freeway widening and I'm going to give you an example to our neighbors here in the north. Recently Monique zero the 405 freeway was why did. They spent about $1.1 billion and counting to widen that freeway and in the name of congestion, but what we found is that and in this local example is that it did not relieve congestion. Levels are back up to that same level. What it does is what we are concerned about with the proposal will do is he saying that UPACS aren't going to be outside of the city Freeway corridor but we know the air pollution travels outside of that where Gore. Door. So when you are increasing capacity for cars you are also increasing the capacity for air pollution to travel outside the corridors and impact those nearby communities as well. That'swhy those folks that I mentioned are very much in support of Caltrans and SANDAG looking at alternatives that will ensure regional and local mobility, but also will ensure that the communities won't be further impacted by the current infrastructure that's and they. We ask people in the neighborhoods affected by the highway 94 expansion to tell us what they think. Here are a few of their comments. I wife and I lived on Broadway since 2006 and we have noticed since then a definite increase in both the volume and especially the noise on the 94 all the time. If we can extend the conversation to what is it look like to actually have some other infrastructure in place expanding the trolley lines making it more accessible, for commuters, from my perspective that's the long-term answer adding some lanes of highway just perpetuates the problem that already exist in our city so I would love to see something much bigger unfold. -- more light rail, more bike lanes, more walkable areas. You are almost forced into your car right now Sophie had more transit alternatives I think -- be used more frequently. Some documents -- -- Jim Hunt, John and Victoria group. Gustavo, Chemed transmit money that would go towards expanding highway 94 be used in other ways? The money is for transportation purposes. For transportation purposes what. With regard to the projects we are mentioning -- any change from deviation of those projects could be done by a 2/3 vote of the SANDAG board. I'm glad your colors mentioned it is because that is something I would like to address is one of the benefits to the community like the gentleman mentioned it is very noisy out there like I said the freeway was built in the 50s. Is part of the project we are planning to build over 50 sound walls for total length or up to 6 miles of sound walls would basically putting sound walls with sides of the freeway for the entire court or length. I'm glad that they brought that up because that is something that we are addressing to meet -- to mitigate the existing and also the future noise along 94. Let me ask you, Monique. As part of the Arment from critics to make it so difficult for people to get from point A to be taking their cars that they will be forced to use alternative means of transportation? I think really the key here is we have the city with this climate -- graph climate action plan in the cities goals are to ensure that more people are walking, biking and taking public transit. When you are -- to the heart of the city and not including access to transit, it begs the question how is the city going to achieve its climate action plan goals? Because the truth of the matter is when freeways are widened, what it does is it increases greenhouse gas emissions and right now in the city of San Diego 55% of greenhouse gas emissions comes from vehicles alone. We need to develop a system in light of the climate justice crisis that's going on right now. And currently the way the system is set up it is not conducive to ensuring that we will reach those goals. Quickly, Tinicum after the environment will impact statement is released, what are the next apps forward for the project? We plan to release document early this summer. It will be circulating to the public. We would like to get comments from people that live along 94. People that use 94. People that come from those areas and South Bay we talked about. Then we will be responding to all of those comments and addressing them. That may prompt other studies to be done. We would like to select a preferred alternative and then finalize our documents so that if that funding becomes available it can move to design and construction. I've been speaking with Monique Lopez and Gustave Dallardo, whose a Caltrans corridor Director to go thank you both very much Thank you, Maureen.

The proposal to expand state Route 94 in San Diego is entering its final planning stages but the project is being met with resistance from community and environmental groups.

Advocates launched a petition to stop the express lanes project.

Caltrans and the San Diego Association of Governments want to ease congestion by adding express lanes, one in each direction from Interstate 5 to Interstate 805. The lanes would serve High Occupancy Vehicles and new Bus Rapid Transit service.

The idea of expanding freeways to promote the use of public transportation is becoming a hard sell in San Diego. Environmental groups are urging the agencies involved to reconsider the plan.

“We see this as a $6 million opportunity to improve mobility not only locally but regionally as well,”

Monique Lopez, policy advocate with the Environmental Health Coalition, told KPBS Midday Edition on Monday. “What we like to see are innovative community-based solutions.”

Gustavo Dallarda, Caltrans' corridor director, said the plan addresses one of the most congested freeways in the region.

“This is one of the top bottlenecks coming into San Diego,” Dallarda said.

He also said the project will address the noise made from the old freeway.

“As part of the project, we’re building over 50 soundwalls,” Dallarda said.

But Lopez said she wants to see more public transit.

“What we really like to see is a project in place that protects the health of the community,” she said.

Caltrans is expected to complete the environmental review process by the end of June.

San Diego Community Groups Launch Petition To Stop Route 94 Expansion