By Joe Naiman
Village News Correspondent 

SANDAG asks staff to be 'ambitious' with RTP draft


Last updated 7/9/2018 at 1:18pm

Every four years the San Diego Association of Governments updates its Regional Transportation Plan. The next RTP will be adopted in 2019 and will include both a revenue-unconstrained scenario and a revenue-constrained plan. During the June 22 SANDAG meeting, the board suggested that staff be ambitious when preparing a draft plan to begin the upcoming process.

The board did not take a vote on a preferred funding scenario but discussed the advantages of being ambitious versus being cautious. Although an ambitious plan may disappoint residents whose projects are not built, the presence of such projects in the plan allows SANDAG to obtain grants for such projects if that money is available.

“What we’re talking about here is a plan, not a budget,” Muggs Stoll, SANDAG director of land use and transportation planning, said. “This item is really more about strategy for our regional plan.”

In October 2015, SANDAG approved the area’s most recent Regional Transportation Plan which anticipates spending approximately $203.8 billion of expenditure-year dollars for highway, transit, rail and bicycle projects through 2050.

“We don’t have $204 billion in the bank. It’s what we anticipate,” Stoll said.

Federal law requires a region which receives federal funding for transportation projects to update its long-range regional transportation plan every four years.

“We don’t focus on just the first four years,” Stoll said.

The revenue includes projections of anticipated federal, state, local and private funds from existing and reasonably available future sources. The revenue projections account for growth assumptions and potential new funding sources consistent with historical funding trends. By the time the draft RTP is actually prepared, the November 2018 election will determine whether the Road Repair and Accountability Act, which funded transportation projects by increasing the gas tax by 12 cents a gallon effective November 2017 and increasing vehicle registration fees between $25 and $175 based on vehicle value effective spring 2018, survives a ballot initiative to repeal the tax. SANDAG staff offered three revenue scenarios based on the public’s level of acceptance of new taxes.

“There could be a lot of different sources,” Stoll said.

The plan adopted in 2015 includes the assumed continuation of existing sources, future state revenues for transportation, potential future federal fuel tax increases, a potential future state vehicle miles traveled fee, which might not survive a legal nexus requirement if the per-mile tax is collected for travel on private roads or outside of California, and a new quarter-cent regional sales tax. The total of $203.8 billion in year of expenditure dollars was based on 2015 cost predictions, and that amount is now expected to be $230 billion to $240 billion.

One scenario presented June 22 assumes only the continuation of existing sources, which would provide $115 billion to $135 billion. The scenario with the Road Repair and Accountability Act gas tax, the additional federal fuel tax, the vehicle miles traveled fee, and a new federal funding measure would generate $155 billion to $190 billion, and when a new half-cent regional sales tax is added to that the estimated revenue becomes $175 billion to $215 billion.

“It’s very hard to predict where exactly the money would come from,” Encinitas Mayor Catherine Blakespear said.

“There is a lot of uncertainty about the future funding,” Escondido Mayor Sam Abed said.

“We have to be cautious in our expectations,” National City Mayor Ron Morrison said.

The half-cent TransNet sales tax for transportation was originally approved by the county’s voters in November 1987, and in November 2004, the voters approved a 40-year extension through 2048. The federal forecast requirement is only for 20 years, but because the TransNet tax will be collected through 2048, SANDAG approved an RTP through 2050 in October 2011. The 2011 adoption of the plan through 2050 meant that few changes for specific projects were needed for the update, so the 2015 plan focuses on implementation. The 2011 plan did not include timeframes for projects which had not yet begun while 2015 update provided phasing information.

TransNet revenue may be used to leverage state or federal funding, but SANDAG has the discretion on the use of TransNet funds for highways, regional roads and transit.

“Local funding kind of equals local determination,” Stoll said. “We get to decide regionally where that money is spent.”

TransNet also includes an allocation for local streets and roads; the cities and the county of San Diego in the case of the unincorporated communities have the spending discretion for that money.

“That doesn’t mean we get started working on everything all at once,” Stoll said. “It’s a 30-year plan. You have to be looking long-term but still have kind of a short-term strategy.”

The plan includes extending the North County Transit District’s Coaster rail line to Camp Pendleton and to the San Diego Convention Center and Gaslamp Quarter on the southern end. Along with double-tracking, grade separations and a new stop at the San Diego County Fairgrounds in Del Mar, the total cost is $2.710 billion in 2014 dollars and $5.174 billion in year of expenditure dollars.

In June 2014, the Metropolitan Transit System implemented Route 235 which has limited stops, mostly close to Interstate 15, between downtown San Diego and Escondido. A plan to extend Route 235 to Temecula has an anticipated cost of $90 million in 2014 dollars and $108 million in year of expenditure dollars.

What is tentatively called Route 477 would run from Camp Pendleton to Carlsbad Village. The cost estimate is $80 million in 2014 dollars and $161 million in year of expenditure dollars.

The addition of four toll lanes on Interstate 5 between Vandegrift Boulevard and the Orange County line has an expected cost of $1.813 billion in 2014 dollars and $4.497 billion in year of expenditure dollars. Adding four toll lanes along I-15 between state Route 78 and the Riverside County line is expected to cost $1.029 billion in 2014 dollars and $2.555 billion in year of expenditure dollars. The San Diego County portion of the state Route 241 toll road would create six lanes between the Orange County line and I-5 and has a cost estimate of $479 million in 2014 dollars and $598 million in year of expenditure dollars.

The $305 million cost to widen state Route 76 from two lanes to four between Mission Road and I-15 was in the 2015 plan and will likely be removed from the 2019 plan since that work is complete. Operational improvements to SR-76 between I-15 and Couser Canyon Road, including an additional two lanes, would cost $131 million in 2014 dollars and $261 million in year of expenditure dollars.

The active transportation projects include the San Luis Rey River Trail, which has an anticipated cost of $37 million in 2014 dollars and $100.2 million in year of expenditure dollars.

“I think we need to have a plan that shows what our vision is, where we want to go,” Solana Beach Deputy Mayor David Zito said.

“Having a plan is really important,” Blakespear said. “We should have a planning scenario that’s more ambitious.”


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