Northbound Trolley at Iris Avenue
A 30-year plan for regional transportation gives a prominent role to transit. Here, a northbound trolley at the Iris Avenue Transit Center in Otay Mesa. Photo by Chris Jennewein

San Diego Association of Governments staff presented the $177 billion, 30-year 2021 Regional Plan for transportation to its Board of Directors Friday.

The plan offers a possible radical departure in transportation for San Diego County by addressing multiple transportation challenges. They include traffic congestion, social equity and state and federal mandates.

SANDAG’s vision adds provisions to increase transit use and accessibility throughout the county. It also calls for 300 miles of new rail line reaching nearly every corner of the region.

“This is the most important work SANDAG does as the region’s planning agency. It is core to who we are and how we provide for the region,” said Board Chair and Poway Mayor Steve Vaus in his opening remarks. “I am hopeful that the work they have done will lead to a better transportation network in the coming years.”

More details on the plan and the approach to developing cost estimates will be shared with SANDAG working groups, policy committees and board late this year.

A draft 2021 regional plan will be available for public review and comment next spring. The board will be asked to adopt a plan in late 2021.

State and federal laws require SANDAG to update the regional plan every four years. The previous regional plan, adopted in 2015, met state requirements for greenhouse gas emissions reductions at the time.

However, the state established increased climate mandates for regional planning organizations across California in 2018.

In response to the new mandate, in February 2019, the board approved a two-year extension to develop the 2021 Regional Plan. The extension provided SANDAG time to develop a plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from cars and light trucks by 19% per capita by 2035.

The goals is to do so primarily through strategies that reduce the total miles driven in the region.

“This vision for the San Diego region is a direct result of robust data analysis and public input,” SANDAG Executive Director Hasan Ikhrata said. “Our SANDAG planners have poured their blood, sweat, and tears into a truly comprehensive vision for a transportation system of the future. This vision considers evolving technology to create a safe, adaptable, and equitable transportation network with fast, fair, and clean choices to give every San Diegan and future generations the option to move around the region as they choose.”

A package of new policies, programs and technologies will be a necessary component of developing the long-range plan.

After the vision presentation at Friday’s meeting, board members participated in a discussion and exchanged ideas about what the region’s transportation system should look like in the future.

“I’m excited to see an evolution of where we can go,” said San Diego City Council President Georgette Gomez. “It’s an exciting moment for our region, and I know it’s challenging right now and has a large price tag, but it’s something worth committing to. It’s good for the environment and is the right approach.”

SANDAG analysts developed the cost estimates in concert with national experts. They also coordinated with the California Department of Transportation District 11, Metropolitan Transit System, North County Transit District, local jurisdictions and the County of San Diego.

– City News Service