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SANDAG Approves Issuing $90 Million In Bonds For Bike Projects

A painted

Photo by Andrew Bowen

Above: A painted "sharrow" on 30th Street in North Park indicates cyclists and drivers must share the same lane, March 25, 2019.

After hours of discussion, public comment and two rounds of voting, the San Diego Association of Governments on Friday approved issuing $90 million in bonds to continue plans of expanding the network of bike lanes throughout San Diego County.

SANDAG board members passed the Regional Bike Plan Early Action Program in 2013, pledging to construct separated and protected bike lanes along several regional corridors including the COASTER and SPRINTER rail lines in North County, San Diego Bay, the San Diego River and a number of streets in the city of San Diego's urban core. The projects were to be funded by the half-cent sales tax called TransNet approved by voters in 2004.

Yet project delays and cost overruns threatened to halt several of the bike projects before construction even started. SANDAG staff argued the $90 million in bonds would allow the agency to complete the projects that were promised, take advantage of low interest rates and avoid losing matching funds from the state.

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

The bond issuance initially failed on a simple tally vote of the mayors, city council members and county supervisors that make up the SANDAG board of directors, with 50% voting on each side. After a call for a second, weighted vote, the measure passed easily with 62 votes out of 100.

The weighted vote breaks down each jurisdiction's votes by population size, allowing larger cities such as San Diego and Chula Vista to wield more power on the SANDAG board. A 2017 bill passed by the state legislature allowed the weighted vote at SANDAG to override the tally vote, which gives Del Mar the same influence as the city of San Diego despite having roughly 0.3% of San Diego's population.

Joining San Diego in voting to adopt the plan were Carlsbad, Chula Vista, Del Mar, Imperial Beach, La Mesa, Lemon Grove and National City. The board members representing Coronado, San Diego County supervisors, El Cajon, Escondido, Oceanside, Poway, San Marcos, Santee and Vista voted no.

RELATED: SANDAG Breaks Ground On Bikeway Projects In North Park, Mid-City

Opponents to the bond issuance argued the cost of the bike lanes, estimated at more than $5.5 million per mile, was exorbitant. San Diego County Supervisor Jim Desmond said people "don't use bikes to bring their children to the doctor."

Staffers said the cost reflects growing construction costs as well as the complexity of the projects, some of which include bridges, grading and ADA upgrades to existing infrastructure.

On the other side of the issue, National City Mayor Alejandra Sotelo- Solis said the lanes would create a safer environment for everyone on the streets. She told a story about her father-in-law dying from injuries sustained in a hit-and-run collision in December and how the time for change is now.

Editor's note: This story has been updated to delete reference to the 30th Street bikeway proposal, which is not a SANDAG project, and to clarify the vote was to issue bonds.

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