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What's Next For San Diego's Freeway Projects?

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The board wants the county’s planned freeway projects to move ahead unchanged.

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Speaker 1: 00:00 The San Diego County Board of supervisors once the county's planned freeway projects to move ahead unchanged this week, the board voted three to two to oppose efforts to revise the plans in favor of a New Vision for public transit in San Diego. The supervisors took the vote even before the new head of Sandag presented his proposal to abandon 15 transit projects funded by the transnet tax. Joining me by Skype is voice of San Diego reporter Andrew Keats and Andrew, welcome to the show. Thanks for having me. The new director of the San Diego Association of governments, a sonic Grotta says San Diego needs a new transportation plan, which does not include these 15 road projects. Apparently the supervisors do not agree. What was that vote like on Tuesday?

Speaker 2: 00:50 Well, it was pretty interesting and I think it was clarifying in terms of what's being debated here because if you keep in mind the county board of supervisors has four Republicans and one Democrat, but this was not a vote on party lines. It was instead of vote between urban areas and rural areas is the way I would describe it. And so a while it was relatively contentious. Uh, the way it broke down was Greg Cox, who represents the south bay and Nathan Fletcher, who's district predominantly covers the city of San Diego, voted to support Asana crowd has vision. Whereas the three supervisors who represent East County and inland North County and coastal North County, the areas that are a little bit less urban and therefore more reliant on highways voted to oppose this vision.

Speaker 1: 01:35 Here's a, a supervisor Dianne Jacob discussing why she voted no.

Speaker 3: 01:39 There's not going to be any mass transit available to people that live in these areas, whether it's Julian, we're Alona, lakeside, Alpine, how Potrero Campo Boulevard, any of these areas,

Speaker 1: 01:56 what projects is he karata asking the Sandag board to abandon

Speaker 2: 02:02 the project that is most at issue here is a expansion of the 78 freeway in north county. That is the one that I think is generating the most frustration, but there's also this 67 in north county and north and east county 52 as well. And so it's really these freeway projects and some connectors and a interchanges that would alleviate congestion on the freeways. Some of these projects are Hov lanes on these freeways, but yeah, there they are freeway projects that predominantly would serve the north county and east county areas. I should add though, and this is something that didn't come up as clearly as it should have in my opinion during the supervisor's meeting is transnet doesn't have enough money to build all of these projects in the first place. The reason this discussion is happening at all is because that sales tax measure, which was approved in 2000 began being collected in 2008 and is going to last for 40 years does not have enough money to build everything that voters were promised back in 2004 that's the fundamental problem.

Speaker 2: 03:11 So when the supervisors say what they should do is keep all their promises. It's sort of speaking directly past the question because the question is what do we do now that we don't have enough money to keep all of these promises? Someone somewhere is losing out on something. So to simply reiterate that you'd like everything to be built that you thought was going to be built. A really ignores the question and voice of San Diego was pivotal in investigating the lack of funds coming in from that transnet the sales tax. So there's not enough money to complete all of these projects anyway. What does he want to spend the remaining transnet funds on? The big requests he's making is to spend $300 million of the remaining funds to begin environmental and engineering planning and preliminary work on a set of transit projects. That would be part of his New Vision for regional transit system.

Speaker 2: 04:10 So it's, you know, part of the unsexy work of infrastructure planning is you have to spend money on these sorts of early phase planning projects that get the projects in the position so that when there is enough money to pay for them, either because it's gas tax money or because the federal government passes an infrastructure program, you need to have them shovel ready. And so he's trying to spend $300 million to get a bunch of different transit projects to be shovel ready so that the region could be in a position to compete for that money when it becomes available, if it becomes available. What does this vote by the county board of supervisors? You really mean it, isn't it largely symbolic? Yeah, I would say it's completely symbolic actually. Uh, the two of the people who put this motion on the county board's agenda in the first place, our Kristin gas bar and Jim Desmond supervisors, both of them are already on sandbags board and on Sandag sport they can vote however they please.

Speaker 2: 05:07 So they were already going to get two votes to do just this. The county, you know, really all they voted to do was to send a letter formalizing their concerns and their opposition to this new direction. But as far as the SANDAG board's voting procedures are concerned, Gas Barn Desmond, we're already going to be able to vote however they wanted. And we already knew how they were going to vote in any way. So this really wasn't a symbolic display. And when does the Sandag vote happen? Sana crowded told me last week that it would happen within the next couple months. So they're really two votes coming here and they might have slightly different politics. The first vote is this vote to formally declare transnet essentially broke and to reappropriate $300 million for this planning project. That requires the vote of two thirds of Sandag board, you know, that's a tall climb it, we'll see how they, how they get there.

Speaker 2: 06:02 And then in about a year and a half or so, the next shoe will drop. We're actually, I think might even be two years from now, which is a final vote on this New Vision, this new idea of having high frequency transit connecting the entire region. That would be an easier lift. He doesn't need all two thirds of the board to approve that. So theoretically somebody could that one way on one thing and another way on the other, but he's got a much lower threshold to reach on that, that second vote that's not coming up for quite awhile. I've been speaking with a voice of San Diego reporter Andrew Keatts. Andrew, thanks. Thank you, Maureen.

Speaker 4: 06:39 [inaudible].

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KPBS Midday Edition

KPBS Midday Edition is a daily talk show hosted by Maureen Cavanaugh and Jade Hindmon, keeping San Diegans in the know on everything from politics to the arts.