The first San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG) board discussion of the draft revenue-constrained Regional Transportation Plan (RTP) update took place Aug. 15.
The non-voting item allowed for feedback and direction to SANDAG staff. A hybrid between two staff-developed scenarios is likely.
“I don’t like one versus the other. I like them both,” said county Board of Supervisors member Ron Roberts.
Federal law requires a region which receives federal funding for transportation projects to update its long-range regional transportation plan every four years. The federal forecast requirement is only for 20 years, but because the county’s TransNet sales tax will be collected through 2048 SANDAG approved a Regional Transportation Plan through 2050 in October 2011.
The 2011 adoption of the plan through 2050 meant that few changes for specific projects will be needed for the update scheduled to be approved in 2015. “Largely we have the same project mix,” said SANDAG director of land use and transportation planning Muggs Stoll. “All of us are really trying to focus on implementation, not starting over with a new plan.”
Most of the proposed projects are in both scenarios. “It’s really about phasing differences,” said RTP project manager Phil Trom.
The revenue forecasts include projections of anticipated federal, state, local, and private funds from existing and reasonable available future sources. 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 revenue projections include growth assumptions and potential new funding sources consistent with historical funding trends.
The 2011 revenue-constrained RTP had projected expenditures of $213.8 billion, including $197 billion between 2014 and 2050. The draft 2015 update calls for spending of $207 billion. Projected expenditures are reduced from $18 billion to $15 billion between 2014 and 2020, but 2021-35 spending increases from $58 billion to $60 billion and 2036-50 planned expenditures would increase from $121 billion to $132 billion.
The major project difference between the two scenarios involves transit. One scenario will implement “express” Metropolitan Transit System and North County Transit District light rail lines, providing commuters with non-stop connections, while also adding new light rail services in more densely populated areas. Such express service would require additional tracks and likely also would require station modifications and additional right-of-way acquisition. The other scenario includes new light rail lines but replaces the express light rail service with more widespread rapid bus service, including rapid bus service from Camp Pendleton to Carlsbad Village scheduled for 2036-50 in that scenario but not included in the express rail service scenario.
In the first scenario two managed lanes would be added along the Interstate 5 and I-805 corridors in an earlier phase with two additional managed lanes being added later. The second scenario would add all four managed lanes at once while delaying additional managed lanes for State Route 78.
The RTP includes privately-funded toll roads as well as highway, transit, and rail projects which would require publicly-provided revenue. The State Route 241 toll road between Orange County and Interstate 5 is part of the RTP, as are adding four toll lanes to the eight existing 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. In both scenarios the I-5 and I-15 toll lanes are scheduled for the 2036-50 period. The I-5 toll lanes have a 2014 dollars cost estimate of $1.813 billion and the I-15 toll lanes have a cost estimate of $1.030 billion.
The State Route 241 schedule anticipates the $416 million construction of the first four toll lanes in the 2020-25 period and the $63 million construction of two additional toll lanes during 2025-30.
The $210 million widening of State Route 76 from two lanes to four between South Mission Road and Interstate 15 is fully funded, and construction is scheduled to begin shortly and be complete in 2017, so that is included among the 2014-20 projects. Widening Highway 76 from Interstate 15 to Couser Canyon Road has a $131 million cost estimate and is in the 2036-50 timeframe in both scenarios.
The transit portion of both scenarios calls for peak bus rapid transit between Temecula and Downtown San Diego through Escondido and for high-speed rail between Temecula and San Diego International Airport.
The RTP also includes a bicycle plan network. The San Luis Rey River Trail, which will include a path through the future San Luis Rey River Park, has an estimated cost of $37 million and is in the 2036-50 timeframe in both scenarios.
The 2015 update of the RTP will also incorporate SANDAG’s Regional Comprehensive Plan. SANDAG incorporated performance measures into both RTP scenarios based on Regional Comprehensive Plan goals.
“The performance measures do show the value of making these transportation investments,” Stoll said.
The SANDAG board is scheduled to adopt a preferred scenario for environmental review and other public comment purposes at SANDAG’s Sept. 12 meeting. Stoll noted that a SANDAG decision on a preferred scenario to be analyzed for the Environmental Impact Review process would allow the EIR to be completed in time for adoption in 2015. “We’re really at a critical decision point for our regional plan,” he said. “The critical path for us is really working on the EIR for this plan.”
SANDAG begins the RTP process with an unconstrained-revenue plan before prioritizing projects and finalizing a revenue-constrained plan based on those priorities and projected funding. The SANDAG board approved an updated unconstrained-revenue plan on Dec. 20.