The San Diego Association of Governments is the region’s primary planning, transportation and research agency. It plays an integral role in regional policies concerning public safety, growth, transportation, housing and open-space planning, and environmental management.
Governed by a board of directors comprising officials from 18 cities and the county, the agency also obtains and allocates resources, and provides information and research on a variety of topics pertinent to quality of life in the region.
SANDAG estimates that the region’s population will grow by nearly 1 million people by 2050, resulting in the need for an additional 330,000 homes. The growth forecast projects nearly 500,000 new jobs by then. Much of the growth is anticipated to occur in existing urbanized areas, reflecting more compact and sustainable development patterns.
“One of the key questions facing our region is how we can accommodate growth while also maintaining our quality of life, and at the same time protecting the environment and meeting state mandates for greenhouse gas emission reductions,” said SANDAG Executive Director Gary Gallegos.
In 2014, SANDAG obtained California Coastal Commission approval for the North Coast Corridor Program, a $6 billion package of highway, rail, transit bike/pedestrian, environmental and coastal access improvements that will take place over the next 30 years along a 27-mile stretch of coastline from Oceanside to La Jolla.
Last June, SANDAG launched a new Rapid transit network that offers high-frequency, limited-stop services connecting residential areas to major employment centers throughout the region. In support of Rapid transit expansion, new transit stations were built along Interstate 15 in Sabre Springs/Penasquitos and at Miramar College.
Last April, two miles of High Occupancy Vehicle lanes were opened on Interstate 805 between Interstate 5 and Carroll Canyon Road, completing a continuous 10-mile HOV lane in each direction from Mira Mesa Blvd on I-805 to Manchester Avenue on I-5.
Current initiatives include preparing San Diego Forward, a regional plan that is updated every four years to rebalance competing needs and priorities. Objectives for the next iteration of the plan, due late in 2015, include meeting greenhouse-reduction targets while building a multi-mode transportation network; supporting habitat conservation, shoreline preservation and water quality improvements; and building a third border crossing.
Slated for an early 2015 start, construction on the I-5 Genesee Interchange project will replace the existing six-lane Genesee Avenue overpass with a 10-lane structure to accommodate current and future traffic demands. In the spring, construction will begin on the I-15 Mid-City Centerline project to build transit-only lanes and Bus Rapid Transit stations at University Avenue and El Cajon Boulevard.
SANDAG’s fiscal 2015 budget totals nearly $1.2 billion, including $832 million for capital projects and $275 million for the TransNet program funded by a regional half-cent sales tax for transportation.
SANDAG uses TransNet funds to leverage state and federal dollars, a formula that has successfully resulted in obtaining hundreds of millions of dollars in state and federal matching funds to help pay for projects.
“At the state level, there is not much money for new projects,” Gallegos said. “State taxes go largely into maintaining the systems. At the federal level, Congress has not passed a long-term transportation bill in years. It’s important that we continue to push for a long-term, sustainable revenue stream for transportation.”
Written by Cameron Leigh James, an Encinitas-based freelance writer.