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Lack Of Stable Funding May Cause Slowdown In San Diego Roadwork

Caltrans has 25 construction projects underway this year, but officials said spending on San Diego’s roads and public transit will slow in coming years without a more stable funding source.

Updated: March 8, 2017, 1:06 p.m.

Caltrans annual transportation update was held Tuesday beside one of this year’s big freeway construction projects: the Genesee Avenue-Interstate 5 interchange.

Officials said without a more stable funding source, spending on San Diego’s roads and public transit will slow in coming years.

Photo credit: Caltrans

Caltrans projects 2017

Caltrans is engaged in 25 construction projects this year, from adding lanes to I-5 in North County to pavement rehabilitation on state Route 125 in the south.

Caltrans District Director Laurie Berman said her crews were also involved in more than 100 maintenance projects last year, including emergency maintenance.

Caltrans District 11, which includes both San Diego and Imperial counties, spent just over $316 million on construction projects in their 2015-2016 fiscal year.

“This year, the work included a record 34 emergency projects totaling more than $33 million in fiscal year ’15-’16,” she said.

Caltrans is not just building roads.

“We implement the statewide bike and pedestrian plan with the goal of tripling bike and doubling pedestrian trips between 2010 and 2020," Berman said.

But Berman had cautionary words for the future.

“The current financing system is unsustainable,” she said. "And we need to find a better way to keep maintaining our transportation infrastructure.”

Transportation infrastructure includes more than freeways and bike lanes. Rob Schupp, of the Metropolitan Transit System, said a new Mid-Coast trolley line will carry passengers from the border as far as UC San Diego. He also mentioned an expansion of public transit at University Town Center.

“While most people are probably more concerned about when Nordstrom's is going to open, we also have a beautiful new transit center that‘s going to open there next month — 1.2 million people start their trips at UTC,” he said.

Gary Gallegos is the executive director of the San Diego Association of Governments, or SANDAG, the agency that manages the money to pay for transportation construction projects. He said 40 percent of the work promised under the 2008 TransNet sales tax has been done. But the last 60 percent will take longer, he said. That is because, instead of borrowing against future tax revenue, the agency has adopted a “pay-as-you-go” strategy.

“What that means is that you collect enough money 'til you can afford to build the project,” Gallegos said. “So you don’t borrow to build it now. So it takes longer.”

Improvements to San Diego’s freeways and public transit systems could slow down after 2021, Gallegos said, unless the federal government comes through with a promise of more money for infrastructure.

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