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By Joe Naiman
Village News Correspondent 

SANDAG sends draft RTP update to public review stage


Last updated 8/16/2019 at 7:41am

A draft update of the county's Regional Transportation Plan network has been advanced to the public review stage.

The draft RTP network was a non-voting item at the July 26 San Diego Association of Governments board meeting. Approval of the final draft transportation network is expected at a fall SANDAG board meeting and a final document including air quality conformity findings is expected to be released for public review in December.

Although some SANDAG members have expressed a preference for fewer future roads and more future transit projects, those would be addressed in a future Regional Plan. Federal law requires a region which receives Federal funding for transportation projects to update its long-range Regional Transportation Plan every four years, so the update of the draft RTP passed without debate.

"It was a draft just for the Federal government," said County Supervisor Jim Desmond, who represents the unincorporated county on the SANDAG board. "It's largely based on our current RTP."

The Regional Transportation Plan covers highway, transit, rail, and bicycle projects. 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.

Once the draft transportation network is approved a total estimated cost for the revenue-constrained plan will be included. The 2011 revenue-constrained RTP had projected expenditures of $213.8 billion. The 2015 update included $203.8 billion of expenditure-year dollars.

Any projects completed since the previous update was adopted in October 2015 were eliminated from the 2019 version of the RTP, and cost estimates of the previously-approved projects were also updated.

"This isn't the big new one going forward. We just have to present something for the Feds," Desmond said. "We're just sending them the past RTP with a couple of updates."

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 focused on implementation. The 2011 plan did not include timeframes for projects which had not yet begun while the 2015 update provided phasing information.

The timeframes in the 2015 RTP included projects expected to be completed by 2020. The $305 million widening of State Route 76 from two lanes to four was completed in 2017, so that has been deleted from the updated RTP. The update retained the widening of Highway 76 from I-15 to Couser Canyon Road, which is in the 2036-50 timeframe, while changing the expenditure-year dollars cost estimate from $261 million to $376 million.

The RTP includes privately-funded toll roads as well as highway, transit, and rail projects which would require publicly-funded revenue. The RTP includes adding four toll lanes to the existing eight freeway lanes of Interstate 5 between Vandegrift Boulevard and the Orange County line and adding four toll lanes to the eight Interstate 15 freeway lanes between State Route 78 and the Riverside County border.

The I-5 and I-15 toll lanes are scheduled for the 2036-50 period and had 2015 expenditure-year estimates of $4.496 billion for I-5 and $2.554 billion for I-15; the 2019 expenditure-year estimates are $6.687 billion for I-5 and $3.684 billion for I-15.

The State Route 241 toll road between Orange County and Interstate 5 was part of the 2015 RTP; the construction of six toll lanes was slated for completion during the 2020-35 period and had an estimated cost of $598 million.

The Transportation Corridor Authorities, which is responsible for four toll roads in Orange County, reached a settlement with environmental groups in November 2016 in which the connection of Route 241 from Rancho Santa Margarita to I-5 would avoid certain environmentally sensitive areas and the environmental groups would not challenge the alignment entirely within Orange County. That eliminated the alignment which included San Diego County, so State Route 241 is not in SANDAG's 2019 draft RTP.

(A scoping meeting to determine what will be in the Environmental Impact Report for the potential Orange County alignments of the State Route 241 extension is expected to occur later this year or early next year.)

The transit portion of the RTP covers Coaster improvements including extension of the rail line to Camp Pendleton by 2035 (the $1.357 billion expenditure-year dollars cost estimate in 2015 and $1.488 billion estimate in the 2019 update also covers double-tracking, grade separation, and new platform projects).

The peak rapid bus transit service between Downtown San Diego and Temecula began as Route 235 in 2014 and currently operates as far north as Escondido; extension to Temecula is expected by 2050 and the expenditure-year cost was updated from $198 million to $222 million.

Rapid bus service from Camp Pendleton to Carlsbad Village through Oceanside, which is anticipated by 2050, had a 2015 expenditure-year cost of $161 million and that was updated to $181 million.

The RTP also includes a bicycle plan network. The 2036-50 projects include the San Luis Rey River Trail, which will include a path through the future San Luis Rey River Park. The update changed the cost estimate from $100.2 million to $122.0 million.


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