Regional transportation plan gets green light

By James R. Riffel

City News Service

A blueprint for transportation improvements across San Diego County through 2050 was approved Friday at a meeting of the board of directors of the San Diego Association of Governments.

The 2050 Regional Transportation Plan, which has been under development for two years, sets up $214 billion worth of projects over the next 38 years. Among the earliest freeway projects envisioned in the 2050 RTP are car pool lanes on Interstate 5 from La Jolla to Oceanside and on state Route 78 from Oceanside to Escondido.

It passed 17-1-1, with Lemon Grove Mayor Mary Sessom dissenting and La Mesa Mayor Art Madrid abstaining.

The plan drew criticism from mass transit and environmental activists, who believe the document leans too far toward expanding the area’s freeways, at the expense of mass transit and air quality.

However, several board members called the RTP “balanced’’ between freeway improvements and mass transit. San Diego Councilwoman Sherri Lightner, who pushed for transit to be a bigger priority when the plan was presented to city officials, said she was satisfied that her concerns were addressed.

County Supervisor Ron Roberts said members of the public who spoke out against the RTP for environmental problems oppose a lot of things, including a recent solar energy project. The plan meets all state air quality requirements, said Roberts, who sits on the state’s Air Resources Board.

“You won’t be one of the first regions in the state to adopt a plan to deal with greenhouse gases; you’ll be one of the first in the world to do that,’' Roberts told the SANDAG board.

SANDAG, made up of officials of the county of San Diego and its 18 cities, says the plan improves mass transit, includes bicycling and walking lanes, and promotes programs that reduce demand while increasing efficiency.

“This document represents plenty of compromise, probably no one likes all of it,’' San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders said.

The plan will improve and expand trolley service and highway projects, enable more frequent and reliable Coaster and Amtrak service, increase the frequency of Sprinter service and add limited-stop express Sprinter service.

Sessom said the RTP puts control of transportation and environmental mitigation projects in the hands of a third party, and it doesn’t jibe with charts showing projected population growth. Madrid announced he would abstain after listing what he believes are three major mistakes made by regional planners in the past.

In all, the RTP received 4,000 comments from 1,500 individuals and organizations, according to SANDAG. The organization is scheduled to issue an update to the plan in four years.