San Diego Association of Governments Executive Director Hasan Ikhrata during the recent KPBS interview. Photo: YouTube

It’s no secret that San Diego Association of Governments new Executive Director Hasan Ikhrata wants the region to have the “best transportation system in the world.” And now he’s promising climate change will be the primary factor in how the agency spends the transportation dollars it controls.

“We have to be sustainable environmentally and financially into the future, and we’re going to factor in greenhouse gas emissions,” he told KPBS in a recent interview.

Ikhrata, who started his SANDAG tenure Dec. 3, said his vision is that any transportation system built “has to come close to emit zero.”

At its May 25 meeting, the SANDAG Board of Directors approved a $1.3 billion program budget for fiscal year 2019, which began July 1. While some may be keen to spend on freeway expansion, it doesn’t fit with Ikhrata’s goal.

“I don’t think we are going to solve all our problems by … widening the freeways. Period. And anybody who argues with that, I’d love to talk to them,” he said.

The California Air Resources Board has been critical of agencies, including SANDAG, for not doing enough to help reduce car travel, which could lead to the state failing to meet its targets to lower emissions.

“Right now, travel is going up,” Ikhrata admitted. “What we need is to provide real options to the car, and then price the system right.”

Earlier this month, the SANDAG board approved the creation of a steering committee tasked with the overall goal of improving transit connectivity to the San Diego International Airport.

“I think we need to do more, but choices are needed,” Ikhrata said.

–Toni McAllister

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