Can you feel it? We just took a big step into a brighter future. The air is electric with possibility, and I can’t wait to tell you about it.
In the last year at SANDAG, where I serve as Chair, we’ve done two very big things. The first was successfully opening, after five years of construction (two of it during the pandemic), an entirely new transit line that goes to UCSD, the county’s largest university and second-largest employer, as well as hospitals, malls and job centers. This transit truly goes where people already are.
An exciting new vision for our future
The second milestone was charting a confident and adventurous plan for transformative, cleaner, greener, and faster transportation for San Diego County’s next three decades. This 2021 Regional Plan was approved by the SANDAG Board on Friday, in an historic vote.
This is the smartest, most equitable, ambitious, and game-changing transportation vision the San Diego region has ever embarked on. It puts San Diego County at the forefront as a leader in fighting climate change while creating tens of thousands of jobs and boosting our region’s economy, with special attention paid to historically under-invested communities.
I’m very proud of my colleagues who voted to support this bold plan, and all the dedicated folks who spent years designing and constructing it. It reduces emissions from the transportation sector by investing in transit options, with managed freeway lanes, increased service. flexible fleets, and fixed rail.
The Regional Plan moves the train tracks from the delicate, unstable bluffs in Del Mar and into a safe tunnel, and it creates a Central Mobility Hub station near the airport and around downtown, and at a new border crossing with Mexico. The intention is that transit will be free for all riders within a decade.
The new transportation plan needs to assume realistic revenue streams. Otherwise, how will it be paid for? One funding idea to offset declining gas tax revenues was to institute a per-mile road use charge. But the only way such a charge can work is if all San Diego County residents can access alternative transportation options. Also, the mechanics of this revenue source aren’t clear yet, so together with other members of the agency’s board, we directed staff to returns to us with options for removing this.
There are other reasonable alternatives to fund the plan, including the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and the Build Back Better Act, both of which can provide alternate financing options when passed. My fellow mayors and SANDAG directors Todd Gloria (San Diego), Alejandra Sotelo-Solis (National City) and I wrote an op-ed in the San Diego Union-Tribune that expands on the topic.
The idea of a “plan” can admittedly appear to be kind of a yawner; it’s not a very sexy concept. But exciting new projects don’t get built unless they are part of a plan, so it’s important for citizens to follow and influence what government agencies are planning.
Daring to imagine a brilliant new world beyond present-day circumstances takes courage, creativity and skill. This revolutionary Regional Transportation Plan far surpasses the status quo strategy SANDAG was following just five years ago – it’s exhilarating to think about how much things are progressing.
What an inspiring time!