A SANDAG-sponsored bikeway project in San Diego County.
A SANDAG-sponsored bikeway project in San Diego County.

By Todd Gloria, Serge Dedina, Lesa Heebner, Mary Salas and Ron Morrison

All of us — busy moms crisscrossing the suburbs, college students riding the trolley to school, tradespeople going where their work takes them, office workers fighting traffic to get downtown — we all care about our environment and want to do what we can to protect and preserve it.

At the same time, we face our daily reality. We have a lot of places to go, with limited time to get there. That reality affects whether or not we take transit, ride a bike, walk, carpool, or drive alone.

There is a path before us right now that can help us get where we need to go when we need to go there, and also allow us to do our part to protect our environment. The county and the cities that make up our region — acting together as the San Diego Association of Governments — are preparing a measure for the November ballot that would make a massive investment in our region, benefitting each and every one of us, as well as our environment. It would raise funds to build practical, realistic choices for getting around – choices that would help us clean our air and meet our goals for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

If approved by voters countywide, this half-cent sales tax measure would raise $18 billion over 40 years for projects and programs in all our communities. These dollars would:

  • Add more than a dozen fast, high-frequency transit routes (trolley, COASTER and Rapid services), expanding the system throughout our region’s cities
  • Add hundreds of miles of bicycle and pedestrian paths, completing a network that would connect our communities with safe and inviting bikeways for people of all ages
  • Protect and manage thousands of acres of land, the equivalent of 12 Balboa Parks, allowing us to reach our goal of preserving half the region as open space, as well as helping to prevent devastating wildfires
  • Add carpool lanes and key improvements to our highway system, creating free-flow for transit and reducing freeway congestion
  • Provide millions of dollars for local governments to repair roads and sidewalks and other city-specific ways to improve our communities
A Rapid bus in operation. Courtesy SANDAG

The potential for making improvements that would benefit our environment is staggering and unprecedented. Almost 42 percent of the funds – $7.5 billion — would be dedicated to transit projects, including frequency
increases to existing San Diego Trolley routes, faster and more frequent COASTER and SPRINTER services, a network of Rapid bus routes crisscrossing the region and a new trolley line along Interstate 805 from the international border to Kearny Mesa.

Another 11 percent of the projected revenues ($2 billion) would be set aside to buy, restore and maintain open space and sensitive habitat.

And more than a half a billion dollars would be invested in “active transportation” projects and programs — a region-wide network of bikeways and pedestrian facilities creating safe, accessible, and widespread choices for people of all ages to use for everyday trips.

Almost a quarter of the funds ($4.3 billion) would be given to the region’s 18 cities and the County of San Diego to be used for local improvements in our communities, like filling potholes, cleaning up storm water runoff, and improving local roads.

The measure also would dedicate 14 percent to improving our freeways, including I-5, I-8, SR 52, SR 67, SR 78 and SR 94, which are used by hundreds of thousands of drivers every day. The funds would largely go toward adding a network of express lanes for transit and carpools, but also to relieve congestion in some general-purpose lanes.

Another 5 percent would pay for separating railroad tracks from street traffic to improve safety and efficiency. In addition, 1 percent would pay for traffic signal synchronization so you can be greeted by more green lights as you travel on local roadways. All these improvements help reduce congestion — which in turn reduces emissions and helps clean our air.

Taken as a whole, this measure offers us a chance to make a future-changing investment in our environment and in the quality of life of our region. This measure would allow us to protect the beautiful open space we love in San Diego, and give everyone more choices for how we travel. We can all have realistic choices for getting around, and at the same time we can protect and preserve our environment.

San Diego City Councilmember Todd Gloria, Imperial Beach Mayor Serge Dedina, City of Solana Beach Councilmember Lesa Heebner, Chula Vista Mayor Mary Salas and National City Mayor Ron Morrison are all board members of the San Diego Association of Governments. SANDAG is the regional planning agency for San Diego County.