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Environmentalists Push For Alternatives To Adding Lanes To Route 94

Community advocates are urging the San Diego City Council to push a plan that calls for alternatives to expanding state Route 94.

Advocates are asking the council to reach out to the region's transportation planners at the San Diego Association of Governments and the California Department of Transportation to include more environmentally friendly fixes for the area's transportation woes.

Officials are looking at ways to ease congestion on the region's roads, and one idea being considered is adding lanes to state Route 94. The highway brings commuters in and out of downtown San Diego.

The National City-based Environmental Health Coalition and other groups want planners to consider more than just widening freeways.

Environmentalists say alternatives exist and they want those ideas to be part of the official environmental impact review. Caltrans and SANDAG have asked critics to hold off on those ideas until transportation planners are ready to present alternatives, but that answer isn't getting a warm reception.

"The last time that Caltrans and SANDAG had a public discussion of this was back in October of 2013," said Monique López, a policy advocate for the Environmental Health Coaltion. "They have continually told us, wait until the EIR comes out to raise these comments and questions."

The alternatives could help the city of San Diego reach an ambitious Climate Action Plan goal to significantly shrink the region's carbon footprint, said Lopez, who worries that waiting hurts the chance for consideration of alternatives. The coalition has specific alternatives to lane widening.

"Using existing shoulder or median for transit only or looking at doing a general lane conversion for both carpool and transit as well," Lopez said.

Lopez is asking the San Diego City Council's environment committee to help make the case with planners. The committee heard testimony on Wednesday and may consider taking formal action next month.