SANDAG year in review, 2011
SANDAG and the San Diego region achieved a string of remarkable accomplishments in 2011, ranging from the opening of a major freeway segment in Santee to the purchase of a lease to operate a toll road in South Bay to the adoption of a 40-year regional transportation blueprint.
Not all of the agency’s successes in the past year were as visible as the opening of new roads. Without much fanfare, SANDAG staff and partners made headway to move some large-scale projects from the drawing boards closer to reality.
The Mid-Coast Corridor Transit Project to extend Trolley service from Old Town to University City won federal approval to enter Preliminary Engineering. The $1.8 billion project is now officially in the pipeline to receive federal New Starts funding.
Slowly but surely, various environmental and financial studies needed to build SR 11 and a new port of entry in Otay Mesa East were getting done. An investment banker and outside legal counsel were selected for the project, which is designed to ease cross-border congestion. Gridlock at U.S.-Mexico border costs the economies of the two nations billions of dollars each year.
Over the past year, SANDAG and its partners also made steady progress on several other major capital projects that are under construction but not yet completed.
- The effort to double track the San Diego County portion of the LOSSAN rail corridor (the Los Angeles-San Diego-San Luis Obispo corridor) is 50 percent complete. LOSSAN is the nation’s second busiest intercity passenger rail corridor, and double tracking the rail line from the Orange County line to downtown San Diego will improve the COASTER’s speed and frequency.
- The half-billion-dollar-plus Trolley Renewal project is moving full-speed ahead. New station platforms are under construction and a new model of low-floor Trolley cars has been introduced. The first two of 57 new vehicles began service on October. The improved America Plaza Station, one of the first to be upgraded, reopened in December.
- The last stretch of the I-15 Express Lanes neared completion in 2011. All 20 miles of the expressway built in the freeway median opened to traffic in mid-January 2012. This high-tech facility between SR 163 in San Diego and SR 78 in Escondido features a movable barrier that allows Caltrans to make up to three lanes available to drivers during rush hour in the peak direction.
Here are more highlights from 2011:
March: A 3.5-mile stretch of SR 52 between SR 125 and SR 67 opened on March 19 with a community-wide celebration attended by about 20,000 people. The new segment completed the 17.7-mile link from SR 67 all the way to I-5. Envisioned by planners for decades, the $520 million project completed a direct route between the City of Santee and the coast, connecting East County residents with job centers and recreational activities.
June: The Escondido Breeze Rapid, the first Rapid Bus service in the region, was officially launched. Breeze Rapid vehicles use queue jumper lanes along West Valley Parkway, and they are equipped with traffic signal priority technology to quickly get through intersections. These special features can save up to six minutes on a one-way trip, or about 16 percent of the time it used to take.
SANDAG was awarded $100 million by the California Transportation Commission to build two high occupancy vehicle lanes – one in each direction – on I-805 between Palomar Street and SR 94.
August: Construction got underway to add $6 million in upgrades to SuperLoop, a high-frequency bus service with stops at popular destinations in the North University area. Improvements include traffic signal priority measures to enable SuperLoop vehicles to move through traffic efficiently and stay on schedule; and new stations with inviting shelters, electronic signs indicating arrival times, leaning rails, comfortable seating, and energy-efficient lights.
September: SANDAG managed to maintain its high credit ratings at a time when many public agencies struggled financially. Standard & Poor reaffirmed SANDAG’s AAA rating on September 8, and Moody’s reaffirmed SANDAG’s Aa1 rating on September 7.
October: After two years of careful work and extensive public input, the SANDAG Board of Directors adopted the 2050 Regional Transportation Plan with a Sustainable Communities Strategy (SCS). SANDAG was the first in California to produce a regional transportation plan with an SCS, as required by Senate Bill 375. The 2050 plan lays out how the region will invest $214 billion in anticipated local, state, and federal funds over the next four decades.
With the acquisition of the 902-acre Rancho Lilac property in Valley Center, SANDAG and Caltrans completed an ambitious plan to preserve 1,600 acres of open space in the SR 76 corridor in North San Diego County. Rancho Lilac is the single largest property acquired under the Environmental Mitigation Program funded by TransNet, a regional half-cent sales tax for transportation administered by SANDAG.
November: A host of new amenities, including elevators, a pedestrian bridge, and a new plaza with palm trees, opened at the Grossmont Transit Center in La Mesa. The station now complies with the Americans with Disabilities Act. Before the improvements were made, a steep wooden stairway was the only direct access to the shopping center and medical facilities located on the mesa above the station.
December: Following a thorough due diligence process and public discussion, the SANDAG Board of Directors finalized the purchase of the lease to operate the SR 125 toll road. The $341.5 million deal enables SANDAG to provide congestion relief to South Bay decades earlier than planned and save the region an estimated $268 million by scaling back the expansion of I-805. The traveling public also will benefit from lower tolls.
All of the successes SANDAG achieved in 2011 would not be possible without the collaboration and hard work of our many partners in the region, as well as other stakeholders at the local, state, and federal levels.
David Hicks, Senior Public Information Officer
Phone: (619) 699-6939, E-mail: email@example.com