Decision Looms On San Diego's Future Transportation Priorities
San Diegans have less than a week left to submit comments on the next version of the region’s transportation plan. The plan will prioritize how to spend millions of public dollars on upgrading ways to travel around the region.
The San Diego Association of Governments, or SANDAG, estimates the population will grow from 3.3 million to 4 million people by 2050. So how to avoid gridlock?
At an Open House in Vista, Mayor Judy Ritter welcomed everyone and spoke about how difficult it is to get anywhere by public transit. She said the best way is still to drive and advocated for more investments in road improvements.
But resident Lisa Wellens said she’s tired of sitting in traffic and she would like a system where people could get wherever they want to go without a car.
“Transit, biking, and walking — we have other cities that are great models for this,” Wellens said. “I think this is an opportunity to use our tax dollars in the best way possible, and I don’t know, necessarily, if a 1950s freeway solution is it.”
SANDAG Senior Regional Planner Phil Trom said $200 million is budgeted for bike paths to be spent in the next seven years.
Many of those who attended the open house said they rely on the bus or the Sprinter to get around, so they were looking for more frequent service.
2015 Plan To Be Updated
The current plan for upgrades till 2050 would cost an estimated $204 Billion. It is updated every four years. The 2015 plan can be reviewed on www.sdforward. There are lists of projects: 37 road projects, 41 public transit projects and 103 bike projects. So the question is: Where will the money be spent first?
SANDAG Principal Planner Elisa Arias said this is the time for residents to give their input since the board will pick one of three options this summer.
“This is about priorities,” Arias said. “Given limited funding, what’s important to our residents is very important and we want to be able to relay that information to our board of directors, who are the decision makers.”
For many North County residents, the widening of state Route 78 is at the top of the wish list. It is currently No. 3 on the list of road projects countywide. Arias said if funding is constrained, there could be ways to make initial improvements, like adding auxiliary lanes, before the work of adding two carpool lanes to SR-78 begins.
Arias said the board is expected to make a decision on their preferred transportation scenario later this summer. Then there is an Environmental Impact Report and another round of public comment before the draft regional plan is finalized by the end of 2019.
The direction of San Diego’s transportation strategy will also depend on SANDAG's new director, who is expected to be announced in the near future. Changes to the power structure on the board are also likely to affect future priorities.
The SANDAG board is currently made up of delegates from cities around the region. It will decide how generous a plan to adopt, considering the funding options. Arias said those options include a possible local sales tax, a federal gas tax or a state-wide mileage-based fee.
A significant share of the money for projects currently underway comes from the half-cent Transnet sales tax, renewed by San Diego voters in 2004. But major funding for projects like the North Coast Corridor, that includes the Interstate 5 expansion, is coming from SB-1, the California gas tax hike that voters could decide to repeal in this November election.
Public responses to a survey on the region's transportation plan priorities will be received until May 10 at firstname.lastname@example.org