SANDAG reports on massive transportation project

SANDAG reports on massive transportation project
SANDAG’s massive transportation project would start with the San Eljio Bridge in Encinitas before moving north for additional HOV lanes on Interstate 5 in Carlsbad. Photo by Tony Cagala

REGION — A $204 billion investment is being proposed for approval in the coming months.

Coleen Clementson, principal planner for the San Diego Association of Government (SANDAG), reported last week to the Carlsbad and Escondido City Councils of the upcoming projects developed by SANDAG for the county looking toward to 2050.

The plan is officially dubbed “San Diego Forward.”

The decades long project will expand transportation routes including widening freeways, adding trolley lines and double-tracking rail lines. In addition, the project will add 160 miles of managed lanes, new HOV and highway connectors and add 275 miles of bikeways throughout the county.

Clementson said the pricey project is a result of growth, which SANDAG estimates to be about 1 million people by 2050 with 460,000 jobs and about 350,000 housing units.

Three goals anchor the plan and they include a healthy environment and community, innovative mobility and a vibrant economy. It will also double the open space to 1.5 million acres.

“We are still growing,” Clementson said. “We are preserving half the region as open space. We can really focus our transportation efforts on the western third of the region.”

Carlsbad city councilman Mark Packard said he wants to see widening projects and improvements along state Route 78 and at the Interstate 5 interchange.

Escondido Mayor Sam Abed, meanwhile, also stumped for better improvements along SR-78, which he called the most congested freeway in the county. Abed said Escondido, along with the four mayors of Carlsbad, Oceanside, Vista and San Marcos along the 78 corridor, are united in gaining funds for the project.

Abed said improving SR-78 is critical for Escondido and North County’s growth and sustainability.

“We have repeatedly said we need funding for the 78 corridor,” he added. “The plan is to do this in 2020, but we don’t have the funding. If we see funding for the 78 widening, and I think it polls very high, we should support that measure. Right now, it’s probably 2030, 2035. This is not acceptable. I am very confident the 78 funding will be in this allocation.”

Escondido councilman John Masson, meanwhile, questioned the habitat portions of the plan relating to his city. Masson said it appears to be redundant since so much of the area has already been down zoned to protect environmental elements.

“I would rather spend more money on moving people than habitat,” he added.

Clementson said the habitat portions are to mitigate the chunks of construction along the project.

Funding for the project, Clementson said, comes from TransNet sales taxes. Currently the tax is one quarter of one cent, although it is expected a measure will be placed on the November ballot to increase the tax to one half of one cent.

But before the tax increase can take effect, the SANDAG board must approve the plan. Clementson said the next several board meetings will take in public input as well as possibly revising any projects.

She said a vote to approve the measure will likely come at the April 8 meeting.

“It requires a two-thirds vote,” Clementson said. “That will be the big decision the board will make in April.”

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