By SANDAG Chair and Santee Councilmember Jack Dale and SANDAG Vice Chair and County Supervisor Ron Roberts
We all want to keep this region a wonderful place to live. We want to protect our environment. We want our local economy to thrive. We want everyone to have the chance to live in healthy, vibrant communities.
How do we achieve these goals for the future in the face of inevitable change? Because big change is coming. There are 3.2 million people in the region now – we expect another million in the next 35 years, mostly from the children of people who already live here now. With those new people will come another half a million jobs and 300,000 homes.
Accommodating that growth while still maintaining our quality of life is going to take careful planning. That is what the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG) has been doing over the last three years. The result is San Diego Forward: The Regional Plan.
San Diego Forward – a vision created with the help of more than two years of public and stakeholder input – envisions a future where we will accommodate growth in our existing communities, preserve our open space, and create active, vibrant communities connected by a variety of transportation choices. More public transit, more managed lanes to create free flow for transit and carpools, and a regionwide network of biking and walking facilities. All told, San Diego Forward calls for a $204 billion investment in our transportation system between now and 2050.
In Mission Valley, that means operational improvements on Interstate 8, increased frequency of the San Diego Trolley Green Line, separated bikeways stretching through the Valley and connecting to neighboring communities, Rapid bus services, and connections with new trolley lines, including one from South Bay to Kearny Mesa and another from El Cajon to Pacific Beach.
In the wider area of central San Diego, the plan will mean a multitude of new transit routes and active transportation improvements, as well as additional roadway infrastructure to ensure faster and more convenient trips via transit, bike, carpool and auto. Fourteen Rapid services are planned to serve the central region, and streetcars are planned in the urban core near Downtown and in the beach communities.
Additionally, local bus and trolley frequencies will be improved to provide better service that is well connected to regional transit. Just around the corner is the Mid-Coast Trolley project that will extend the Blue Line Trolley from Downtown to UCSD and University City.
Other future trolley services will include the Pacific Beach Line, an extension of the Mid-Coast line to Sorrento Mesa to connect with the COASTER, trolley from University City and Kearny Mesa to San Ysidro, and finally the conversion of the Mid-City Rapid line to trolley, connecting Downtown and SDSU. An intermodal transit center also is planned to provide seamless transit access to the airport.
Highway improvements in the central core include operational improvements on I-5 and I-8, as well as managed lanes on I-805 from state Route 54 to its connection with I-5 in Sorrento Mesa. Managed-lanes projects are also planned on I-5 between I-8 and Sorrento Mesa, as well as on state Route 94 between I-5 and SR 125, and on I-15 to connect SR 94 to the existing managed lanes north of SR 52.
Adding transportation choice has its benefits. Economic analysis of San Diego Forward shows that for every dollar invested in the Plan, we will realize almost $2 in economic benefit. An efficient system will support an average of 53,000 more jobs a year, and it will result in an average annual increase of $13 billion in gross regional product.
Creating choice also allows for more trips to occur outside of a solo vehicle, benefiting the environment. The transportation network in the Regional Plan will cut greenhouse gas emission even farther than targets set for our region by the California Air Resources Board – reducing per capita greenhouse gas emissions by 15 percent by 2020 and 21 percent by 2035.
In the end, we all have the same goals for the region’s future – a strong economy, healthy communities, and environmental protection. And we all have a role to play in getting us there, including finding ways to reduce driving, embracing more efficient technology, and just living a healthy lifestyle. Let’s work together to keep San Diego moving forward.