Ann Gardner | Via Latina
A California Court of Appeals has ruled that the San Diego Association of Government’s (SANDAG) blueprint for transportation projects through 2050 relies too heavily on freeway expansion rather than public transit, failing to comply with state targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions (GHG). As the Sandpiper goes to press we are unsure what this means for the 27 mile I-5 North Coast Corridor Project expected to get underway this year beginning with the addition of one HOV lane in each direction from Lomas Santa Fe to State Route 78. Only last month the SANDAG Board had rejected requests from numerous community groups to put public transit projects ahead of freeway expansions. The Board which approves plans and funding for CALTRANS was scheduled to meet in closed session on December 5 to discuss the Court ruling. City Councilmember Terry Sinnott is Del Mar’s representative on the 21-member Board that also includes Lisa Heebner, from Solana Beach and Dave Roberts, representing the County.
New Del Mar Councilmember and an alternate to SANDAG, Dwight Worden responded to our questions about the ruling. “This is an important case… the first published ruling on how transportation plans and the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) interface with regard to compliance with our state’s relatively new GHG rules.” The Court, Worden said, noted that the “rules require a constant decrease in GHG…yet the SANDAG Plan calls for constant increases.” There was “no consideration of an alternative to reduce vehicle miles traveled.” Instead, only “congestion relief, which does not necessarily lead to GHG reductions,” was discussed. “CEQA was violated by failure to address the health impacts of increased emission from the Plan.”
The Cleveland National Forest, the Center for Biological Diversity and Sierra Club had challenged SANDAG’s environmental review of the plan under CEQA. California Attorney General Kamala Harris joined in the challenge on behalf of the “People of the State of California.” She said “…SANDAG has set too low a bar for determining whether the air quality impacts of its Regional Transportation Plan and Sustainable Communities Strategy are significant and has failed to analyze the impacts of projected increases in pollution on communities that are sensitive or already overburdened with pollution, in violation of CEQA.” For further information on the lawsuit and a link to an alternative, transit-oriented plan that was not considered by SANDAG in its planning process go to www.transitsandiego.org. The Sandpiper will continue to provide updates.