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SANDAG Borders Committee accepts I-15 IRP Phase III final report

The San Diego Association of Governments’ Borders Committee voted unanimously to accept the final report for Phase III of the Interstate 15 Interregional Partnership (IRP).

The April 23 vote sends the I-15 IRP final report to the full SANDAG board. The final report includes a background of the partnership, an economic development strategy, a transportation strategy, a housing strategy, a performance monitoring section, and a conclusion with recommendations for further action.

“We felt like this is a great model throughout the state for interregional cooperation,” said California Department of Transportation District 11 planning director Bill Figge.

The I-15 Interregional Partnership was formed in 2001 to address the imbalance between jobs and housing which has caused many San Diego County employees to commute from Riverside County. The I-15 IRP is a voluntary compact which involved officials from SANDAG, the Western Riverside Council of Governments (WRCOG), the Riverside County Transportation Commission and the Riverside Transit Agency.

The California Department of Transportation also participated, although Riverside County is part of Caltrans District 8 while San Diego County is in Caltrans District 11, and the partnership also included other affected government and private-sector organizations.

The primary goal of the I-15 IRP is to foster collaborative strategies for economic development, transportation, and housing which will improve the quality of life for residents in both counties. The partnership promotes providing appropriate employment closer to where people live and affordable housing closer to where people work throughout the I-15 corridor.

Phase I of the IRP was funded by a grant from the California Department of Housing and Community Development and focused on developing a policy structure and mechanism for technical support, exploring existing conditions and understanding the interregional commuter problem, identifying current programs to resolve interregional issues, developing strategies for a better balance between jobs and housing, and establishing an implementation and monitoring process.

Phase II, which was funded by a Caltrans grant, sought to strengthen and expand the scope of the interregional institutional arrangements, established an economic development working group, completed a two-county employment cluster study, and provided recommendations.

Two Caltrans grants totaling $575,000 funded the strategic action plan of Phase III which allowed for the development of economic development, transportation, and housing strategies. “This turns studies into blueprints into actions,” said Lake Elsinore City Council member Thomas Buckley.

The economic development strategy identified three job clusters: alternative and renewable power generation, biotechnology and medical device manufacturing, and travel, tourism, entertainment and wineries. Promotion of new employment opportunities in those job clusters is one of the economic strategies, as is facilitating greater collaboration between regional economic development entities.

The transportation strategies include interregional coordination of vanpool and carpool programs, collaboration among transit providers, preserving transportation right-of-way and implementing priority measures through the development process, and implementing the I-15 high-occupancy vehicle and managed lanes system.

The housing strategy focuses on incentives for the construction of moderate-cost family housing near employment centers. SANDAG will pursue implementation of a pilot project along the State Route 78 corridor while SANDAG and WRCOG will continue to collaborate on “smart growth” development near transit applicable to both regions (while no North County Transit District buses travel to Riverside County, Riverside Transit Agency routes serve the Escondido and Oceanside transit centers).

“There’s a lot of projects that have spun off from this,” said WRCOG program manager Kevin Viera.

The performance monitoring will judge economic development on high-wage cluster employment in southwestern Riverside County and the average wage in southwestern Riverside County.

Transportation performance will be measured by average weekday peak period traffic at the county line, the number of interregional vanpools, daily interregional transit ridership and peak period vehicle occupancy at the county line.

Housing performance monitoring will compare home prices and commuting costs to determine how the cost of transportation affects the actual cost of living in Riverside County while commuting to San Diego County.

Possible future actions include maintaining an interregional planning structure to pursue collaborative goals as well as the economic, transportation, and housing strategies.

“We’re moving forward on a variety of interregional strategies within the IRP,” said SANDAG senior planner Jane Clough-Riquelme.

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