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SANDAG Plan Roils Two San Diego County Supervisors

An MTS trolley car passes by a mostly empty parking lot at the Palm Avenue st...

Photo by Andrew Bowen

Above: An MTS trolley car passes by a mostly empty parking lot at the Palm Avenue station, Oct. 11, 2018.

The San Diego Association of Governments has roiled two San Diego County Supervisors because the regional agency is changing the focus of the agency’s transportation funding.

Supervisor’s Jim Desmond and Kristin Gaspar say SANDAG should keep its promise to upgrade the region’s freeways. The pair is asking the board to approve writing a letter to the regional agency charged with shaping transit.

In November 2004, 67 percent San Diego’s voters approved a 40-year extension of TransNet, a half-cent sales tax to generate funds for highway, road, and public transit projects. San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG) is responsible for leveraging these funds with state and federal resources; designing and engineering the projects identified in the 2004 TransNet Extension Ordinance; prioritizing and appropriating funds; and overseeing construction and implementation of the projects. SANDAG’s Regional Transportation Plan (RTP) integrates the 2004 TransNet Extension Ordinance projects, among other projects, into one regional plan.

“We’re only 11 years into a 40-year tax and it is being suggested that we not do those projects but that the taxpayers still have to, for the next 29 years, still pay that tax,” said Jim Desmond, San Diego County supervisor.

SANDAG is proposing a drastic change in how it would redirect public funding to pay for the technology, mass transit and ridesharing that would change the way people travel. Desmond and Gaspar argue in their measure that it breaks a promise SANDAG made to San Diego voters.

On April 26, 2019, SANDAG staff presented to the Board of Directors a new vision for the RTP. The new vision identifies numerous new public transit projects while removing the majority of the 14 unconstructed highway projects that the San Diego voters were promised in the 2004 TransNet Extension Ordinance.

The purpose of this letter is for the County Board of Supervisors to direct the Chairwoman to send a letter addressed to SANDAG on behalf of the Board opposing any modification to the TransNet Extension Ordinance; advocating for inclusion of the highway and road projects in the RTP; and requesting SANDAG to pursue new sources of funding for projects not listed in the 2004 TransNet Extension Ordinance.

Supervisor Nathan Fletcher said it is in SANDAG’s authority to change the focus of the transportation plan. The request from Desmond and Gaspar comes at the same time that the county is working to develop a legally defensible climate action plan.

RELATED: San Diego County Criticized In Climate Action Plan Report Card

The county’s previous efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions have been soundly defeated in the courts.

“The basis of that litigation is that we are not doing enough to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. I would be shocked if the board of supervisors, while publically committing itself to lower greenhouse gas emissions as a result of the lawsuit, would vote for an item that so clearly increases greenhouse gas emissions,” Fletcher said.

Fletcher, the panel’s only Democrat, said the region needs to focus on reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

“It doesn’t make sense to go back decades to find failed policies that we know are not going to achieve the outcomes that we need,” Fletcher said.

The supervisors hope to redirect voter-approved transit funding to pay for the technology, mass transit and ridesharing that would change the way people travel.

The move is supported by San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer and a number of other local political leaders.

Supervisors will consider supporting or rejecting the letter to SANDAG at Tuesday’s meeting.

Two San Diego County supervisors are not happy with plans to change what future transportation funding will be spent on.

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