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Traffic, Transit, and Taxes
Dwight Worden | Del Mar Councilmember and SANDAG Alternate

While you wrestle with Trump, Hilary, and the “noise” expected to surround the November ballot, get ready to vote on a half-cent sales tax measure from SANDAG requiring 2/3 voter approval. It’s a big deal, raising $18.2 billion over its 40-year term.

Here’s the story. Federal and state dollars for transit, freeways, and local streets have become scarce. What is available is VERY competitive, requiring shovel-ready projects and local matching funds. SANDAG has an adopted long-term plan to provide transit (rail, trolley, bus) and highway infrastructure to keep the region moving to 2050, predicting an additional 1 million+ in population growth (mainly from births and not immigration) but needs funds for implementation. Otherwise, SANDAG predicts gridlock. The price tag of the full plan is $200+Billion.

mplemented, that plan maintains our current level of service keeping pace with the demands of predicted growth. Without it, LA style congestion or worse.
Voters approved a SANDAG sales tax by 2/3 in the mid 2,000’s. Those funds (TRANSNET Extension) pay for roads, street and highway projects (check out our new sidewalks to see one project). The new measure would add another half-cent for the next 40 years for more transit and highways, but also for open space, bicycle, local street and road improvements and repair. Here’s how the $18.2 billion will be spent:

• 41.7% for transit ($7.5 Billion) —rail, trolley, and bus service improvements
• 30% ($5.4 Billion)—to cities for their projects
• 11% for Open Space ($2 Billion)—Habitat Plan implementation, open space acquisition and Conservation
• 10.8% ($1.9 Billion)—Managed Lanes (HOV)
• 3.4% ($615 million)—Highways and connectors
• 3% ($540 million) Active Transportation—Bicycles, walking projects

For Del Mar, double tracking of the coaster rail line, a new railroad bridge over the San Dieguito River, and a seasonal rail platform at the fairgrounds costing $100 million+ are priority projects. Not in the priority category, is $1 million+ for bluff stabilization to protect the rail line, connectors between the 56 and I-5 freeways, 2 HOV lanes on the I-5 from La Jolla to Oceanside (priority) with a second HOV lane each way in the following decade, improvement of highway 78 (priority) and other area projects. For the region as a whole there will be a new trolley line (purple line) from San Ysidro to Kearny Mesa, completion of the mid-coast trolley to UTC and UCSD, lots of new express bus service, bike and walking projects and open space preservation.

SANDAG voted (13-5; 61% weighted vote) to put the measure on the ballot. Escondido, County (Horn), La Mesa, El Cajon, Poway, and City of San Diego (Faulconer) voted “no.” Most felt it was too transit-oriented without enough emphasis on freeways. There are labor, business, and environmental groups on both sides, some contending it is too freeway-oriented. So, how to vote?
It’s hard to say “no” to $7 billion for transit and $2 billion for open space. Is it perfect, no? But, “daddy” (the feds and state) isn’t going to fix our gridlock for us—we’re on our own. In that context we need this measure and it reflects a reasonable balance of our many competing needs and priorities.

 

 

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