Total estimated highway and transit capital costs for 2007 have climbed by $3 billion in the county during the past year, according to the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG).
In its 2007 Regional Transportation Plan, SANDAG projected capital costs of $18.3 billion under a constrained revenue scenario based on traditional sources of funds. The 2007 scenario is a $3 billion jump over 2006, mostly due to increased construction and right-of-way costs. Those capital expenditures do not include operational, maintenance, project rehabilitation expenses and any interest for bonds.
SANDAG's wish list is an unconstrained funding plan that would realize the completion transportation program over an open period costing about $80 billion in 2006 dollars.
However, SANDAG's 2007 starting point is a revenue constrained plan that assumes expenditures of $40.6 billion through 2030, up from $35.7 billion in the 2006 revenue constrained plan.
In prioritizing its capital projects, SANDAG continues its already established commitments to the three major north-south corridors: interstates 5, 15 and 805.
The top three priority projects in the county are all along I-5. The first, at a projected cost of $450 million, would add two regular and two HOV (high occupancy vehicle) lanes between I-8 in Mission Valley and La Jolla Village Drive. The second would add two freeway and two HOV lanes through National City between state Route 54 and I-15 at a projected cost of $350 million.
The third would add four managed lanes nearly the length of North County between SR 56 in north San Diego and Palomar Airport Road in Carlsbad at a projected cost of $1.29 billion.
Fourth is the addition of two HOV lanes on I-5 between SR 905 in San Ysidro and SR 54 in National City.
Ranked fifth is the biggest ticket item: The plan to add four managed lanes on I-805 from H Street in Chula Vista to I-8 in Mission Valley at a projected cost of $2.41 billion.
Of the top 10 prioritized projects, only one was not a north-south corridor: the addition of two lanes and three reversible managed lanes on SR 52 between SR 125 in Santee and I-15 in Kearny Mesa.
"Projects on all three north/south (I-5, I-805 and I-15) freeways made the cut, as did the widening of Highway 67," SANDAG principal planner Michael Hix said.
Despite finally opening in the summer 2005 from I-5 in Del Mar to I-15 in Rancho Peñasquitos, SR 56 is already climbing the charts.
In the SANDAG 2007 Transportation Plan, SR 56 was ranked 46th out of 52 projects. The four-lane highway is already planned for the addition of two more lanes at a projected cost of $49 million in 2006 dollars. The highway is also being considered for a couple of high occupancy vehicle lanes that could really be a long way off.
"(SR) 56 was a fairly low-ranked project," Hix said.
The Mission Valley Viaduct, also known as the Jack Schrade Memorial Bridge, would cost at least $308 million -- and perhaps as much as $610 million --depending on how the 11th-ranked project would be constructed. That would buy four managed lanes with two in each direction, but it also won't happen for a while.
Hix said it now appears there will be funds to stripe another lane in each direction, but the rest will have to wait.
Another proposal -- one favored by SANDAG's Transportation Committee -- would boost the constrained budget of $40.6 billion to approximately $51 billion. Where the additional funding would come from is uncertain.
Under this second scenario, $1.1 billion of the total could be set aside for HOV lanes along I-5 from I-8 to SR 905; $1.7 billion for HOV lanes on SR 78 between I-5 and I-15; and a projected $400 million could be spent to widen Highway 67 between Lakeside and Ramona, among numerous other projects.
This proposal also focuses on the implementation of bus rapid transit systems throughout the county.
Assuming the $51 billion budget is reached, the SANDAG committee proposed a third option that could bring the expected revenue scenario to $58 billion without having to scramble for even more funds.
This option would make toll roads of the managed lanes of I-5 across Camp Pendleton and of I-15 between Escondido and Riverside County. That alone could bring in about $2 billion. Another $2 billion in this scenario would come from local sources, plus about $3 billion would come from assessments on the movement of goods at the border.
All of the scenarios assume SR 11 -- intended to extend SR 905 from the second to the proposed third border crossing -- would be a toll road, freeing up about $250 million for other projects.
Meanwhile, the scrambling for funds continues. The TransNet half-cent sales tax, extended for a 40-year period in November 2004, is only projected to generate about $14 billion. Other local, state and federal sources help, but still wouldn't be able to make up any projected shortfalls without tolls or other revenue sources.
While conceding sacrifices will have to be made, SANDAG said with some work, the TransNet plan can go forward largely intact. Still, even with some extra toll roads, the skyrocketing right-of-way and construction material costs have forced the agency to rethink the timetable of its projects at the very least.