$160 Billion Approved for San Diego Transit Plan


Last week, the San Diego Association of Government announced that its Board of Directors had passed the 2021 Regional Transportation Plan. The plan is expected to run through 2050 and will invest $160 billion in road and transit infrastructure.

“This is a monumental day for the San Diego region,” said SANDAG Chief Executive Officer Hasan Ikhrata in a release. “The 2021 Regional Plan creates real transportation options that address today’s challenges and build a foundation for tomorrow, ensuring our region is ready for generations to come. We appreciate the community’s support and look forward to partnering with you to bring this transformational plan to life.”

The plan was reportedly approved by 57.8% to 42.1% without the controversial road usage tax proposal, which planned for a four-cents-per-mile tax and two half-cent regional sales taxes in 2022 and 2028. According to reports, SANDAG estimated that the tax could raise more than $34 billion through 2050.

“This is a visionary plan that needs broad public support to be realized,” said Encinitas Mayor and Board Chairwoman Catherine Blakespear. “The road-use charge represents one of the long-range options on the table for replacing the gas tax. And while the principles behind such a charge are well-understood, the mechanics of how it would be implemented are not.

“The fee is unnecessary for the plan to succeed. That is why I asked, together with board leadership, to have it struck from the regional plan, and the board agreed.”

What’s Included

The long-term plan calls for investments in technology, public transit, roadways and green infrastructure. SANDAG’s vision for transportation focuses on the “5 Big Moves”:

  • The Next Operating System (Next OS): a digital platform that compiles information from transportation systems into a centralized data hub to analyze how transportation is planned, operated and experience;
  • Flexible Fleets: shared, on-demand transportation services that provide convenient and personalized travel options, such as rideshare, bikeshare, scootershare and shuttle services;
  • Mobility Hubs: communities with a high concentration of people, destinations and travel choices;
  • Transit Leap: a complete network of fast, high-capacity, high-frequency transit services that connect major residential areas with employment centers and attractions throughout the San Diego region; and
  • Complete Corridors: travel choices and technology to manage how highways and major roads are used in real time, including freight vehicles and people who walk, bike, drive, ride transit and use flexible fleets.

“The Plan will make it easier for everyone in the region to get where they need to go, whether you choose to walk, ride, drive, or bike. It was developed using a data-driven approach and combats climate change by making transit competitive in every major corridor throughout the region,” stated the SANDAG release.

Green infrastructure was a large portion of the plan, with state law requiring that the plans needed to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Zero-emission buses, electric vehicles and charging stations and traffic-protected bike lanes are all planned to be included throughout the city.

“Today’s vote to approve the greenest transportation plan in our region’s history was nothing short of historic,” Blakespear said. “We are delivering on the vision to transform our transportation system by providing our region with more choices for how to get around. We are also making a tangible difference in efforts to fight climate change and to maximize the road network for greater efficiency.”

The plan was developed following years of gathered community input and data analyzed by SANDAG, which it started presenting in 2019 to the Board. The first draft was released in May of this year, with a public review and comment period taking place until Aug. 6.

SANDAG also released a draft of an Environmental Impact Report for review. It took into consideration the nearly 17,000 comments in the process of development. According to reports, the plan meets all state and federal requirements and air quality mandates.

The full 2021 Regional Plan can be found here and the final EIR can be read here.

Next Steps

SANDAG reports they will immediately start to progress with certain projects, including but not limited to:

  • Opening the new Otay Mesa East Port of Entry and Smart Border Management System;
  • Relocating the LOSSAN rail corridor off the bluffs;
  • Advancing the Central Mobility Hub to provide direct transit connections to the San Diego International Airport;
  • Blue Line Express;
  • Purple Line;
  • Regional Vision Zero action plan and policy; and
  • Digital Equity Action Plan.

The big changes have a large price tag, and some groups are concerned with how the plan will be funded.

“In SANDAG’s Regional Transportation Plan, the only thing ‘regional’ about it is the financial burden that will be on the back of every county resident,” said Poway Mayor and former Chairman of the SANDAG Board Steve Vaus. “For people living in North or East County, they will be paying the taxes for something they will never use — public transit.”

According to SANDAG, the Regional Pricing Strategy outlines dynamic tolling on Managed Lanes, transit fare subsidies, parking and curb pricing and the road usage charge, which was dissented at the meeting. Funding is also received from federal, state and local revenues, with local being the largest.

Following the approval meeting, the board advised SANDAG to begin looking at new alternatives of funding for the road usage charge.


Tagged categories: Environmental Controls; Funding; Government; Green Infrastructure; Infrastructure; Infrastructure; Mass transit; NA; North America; Program/Project Management; Project Management; Public Transit; Transportation; Upcoming projects

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