The Otay Mesa Community Plan Update, including the Southbound Truck Route improvement project, is on track to go before the San Diego City Council in February.
“We have several boards that we have to go to, so for the month of January, on the 16th we’ll be at the Parks and Recreation board, on the 23rd we go to the Historical Resources Board, and on the 30th we’ll be at the Planning Commission,” said Theresa Millette, the senior planner in the Planning and Neighborhood Restoration Department working on the plan. “We hope to be at the City Council on Feb. 11.”
The update, which has been in the works for 10 years, would be implemented starting Feb. 11 if approved, but would still get a 30-day second reading because the update creates two new zoning types, and then another 60-day period for the Facilities Financing component approval.
The Otay Mesa Chamber of Commerce Executive Director, Alejandra Mier y Teran, said the organization had recently changed its position on the plan, and now supports approval as long as there is some solution to the existing truck traffic issue.
“In the plan there’s a project called the Southbound Truck Route project, which we support, but it lacks $9 million in funding, and it’s not clear where we would get those funds,” Mier y Teran said. “We want to make sure there’s a viable plan to solve the truck-traffic problem as a part of the Community Plan, or a definite update to it.”
Mier y Teran said the issue is that trucks queue up along La Media Road, Avenida de la Fuente, Siempre Viva Road and Drucker Lane to load and unload in Otay Mesa, the area’s only port of entry to and from Mexico for commercial trucks. They often block nearby businesses and hinder operation.
The Southbound Truck Route improvement project will add more truck lanes to the mix and change the traffic pattern.
“The project starts on Britannia Boulevard right at Britannia Court, and goes down along the border and then all the way to Drucker,” said David Li, associate civil engineer with the city of San Diego and project manager for the improvements.
“So it’s about two miles, and is kind of in two halves. In the half from Britannia to La Media we’ll be putting in two new lanes, one truck lane and one lane for Border Patrol. And from La Media to Drucker we’re going to add one lane for trucks, because currently there are only two lanes, one for trucks and one for Border Patrol.
“What happens is after our project, all the loaded trucks going down La Media will then take Britannia instead, and all the unloaded trucks currently going down Drucker will take La Media. We’re basically just increasing the queue length of the truck route.”
Li said that if all goes well, the design portion of the project will be completed in December, although that depends heavily on the environmental aspect of the work. He said the city is still reviewing the environmental studies, and will then determine if an environmental impact report is necessary. If so, that would push the schedule back quite a bit.
He confirmed that the construction portion of the roadway improvement project is $9.3 million in the red, although the design and right-of-way portions are fully funded. He said they are working with the Transportation and Storm Water Department to fill this gap, and hoping for more TransNet funds or possible grant monies.
Though this plan solves Mier y Teran’s concerns about truck traffic blocking local businesses, Rob Hixson, chair of the Otay Mesa Planning Group and senior vice president at CBRE, said it has given rise to a new fear that the proposed route along Britannia would be too close to the planned residential and mixed-use Central Village, parts of which abut Britannia.
“There is a small group in the trucking industry that is still concerned about the Central Village’s location in relation to truck routes and industry, but I think we’ve figured out a pretty good buffer,” Hixson said.
In one case, Hixson said the owner of a 31-acre parcel along Britannia had committed to creating a buffer zone of five to 10 acres along the road before building residential units.
“We’ve had some concerns, but I think most of them have been answered and worked out with everyone. We tried to get everyone at the table to give their input,” Hixson said.