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SANDAG Budget Has More Delays For Priority Bike Projects

Bicyclists ride on the SR-15 commuter bikeway between Kensington and Mission ...

Photo by Matthew Bowler

Above: Bicyclists ride on the SR-15 commuter bikeway between Kensington and Mission Valley, Aug. 30, 2017.

Several key bike projects planned by the San Diego Association of Governments would be delayed under a proposed budget due for discussion at a public meeting Friday.

The budget comes one month after the county's lead transportation agency reported it had spent $61 million on high-priority bike projects while less than 4 miles of those projects had been opened to traffic. The bike projects are important to SANDAG's state mandate of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, most of which come from transportation.

SANDAG principal planner Linda Culp said in a Jan. 10 interview with KPBS that at least eight of the bike projects were on track to start construction before the end of the year. The SANDAG draft budget pushes nearly all of those start dates into 2019 and 2020.

RELATED: $61 Million Spent On SANDAG’s Bike Program; Less Than 4 Miles Completed

"When we are working on the draft budget for next fiscal year, we always take a look at the milestones for each project," Culp said in an interview Wednesday. "And many times those change, and we update those."

One project that would create separated bike and pedestrian paths along Pershing Drive through Balboa Park is facing a construction delay of about 10 months. The corridor is a key missing link in San Diego's bike network that would connect densely populated Mid-City neighborhoods with downtown.

Culp said the delay to the Pershing Drive bikeway was to study the design of roundabouts with city transportation planners. She attributed a two-month delay to the construction of protected bike lanes on 4th and 5th Avenues in Hillcrest and Bankers Hill to drainage issues.

"They all have their own reasons" for being delayed, Culp said. "It could be more design work is needed, sometimes it could be more outreach."

RELATED: San Diego Regional Bike Counters Up For Adoption

In 2013 the SANDAG board of directors, made of up elected officials from across San Diego County, approved a $200 million program to build more than two dozen bike projects across the county. The bicycle "Early Action Program" was intended to be complete within a decade, but project delays and cost increases have made that deadline unlikely to be reached.

San Diego City Councilwoman Georgette Gomez, who sits on the SANDAG Transportation Committee, is among the most pro-bike elected officials in the county. Her chief of policy, Lara Gates, said while delays are never desirable, sometimes they are necessary to make good projects.

"We would like to see these projects completed in a timely manner, on budget," Gates said. "We also want to make sure we're getting the best projects we can in our urbanized communities so we don't have to come back at a later date to do improvements."

Jeff Kucharski, board president of the nonprofit BikeSD, said it was up to elect officials to ensure staffers at SANDAG and the city of San Diego get projects done on time.

"Strong leadership is needed to drive these projects through two large bureaucracies," he said in an email. "For city of San Diego residents, we need our SANDAG representation to champion these projects."

SANDAG's draft budget is scheduled for discussion at a Friday meeting of the board's executive committee.

A number of bike infrastructure projects planned by SANDAG are facing delays under the transportation agency's proposed budget. Some $61 million has been spent on the projects, but few have been completed.

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