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SANDAG approves $90M to keep regional bike lane projects rolling

SANDAG bike photo ut.jpg
A cyclist rides on a bike path next to I-15, between Adams Avenue and Camino del Rio South, in San Diego, which is part of the San Diego Association of Government Regional Bikeway Program.
(Hayne Palmour IV / San Diego Union-Tribune)

Elected officials governing the region’s top transportation and planning agency approved on Friday, Jan. 10, $90 million in bonds to fund a suite of bike lane projects across the county, known as the Regional Bikeway Program.

The San Diego Association of Governments Board of Directors approved the issuance of the bonds over the criticism of some members that the agency should be less focused on building new bike lanes and more on expanding congested highways.

The vote will help secure the resources needed to complete about 70 miles of bike lanes across the region by 2024, which is expected to cost roughly $279 million in total.

Ahead of the vote, SANDAG Executive Director Hasan Ikhrata told the board that the projects were an important part of meeting a state mandate to reduce car and truck travel to curb greenhouse gases.

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“This region needs to meet very strict state requirements,” he said. “You need to reduce vehicle miles travel. Bike investments would lead to reducing vehicle miles traveled.”

However, that argument proved unconvincing for about half of the board members, including County Supervisor Jim Desmond. After Friday’s public hearing he held a press conference slamming the agency’s bicycle program.

“Bicycle lanes do not help young families move their children around,” he told a gathering of reporters. “It does not help businesses moving goods around. It does not help the average everyday person who’s trying to get errands done.

“What we should be focused on is fixing our roads and infrastructure, and getting cars off the freeways that are idling,” he added.

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SANDAG passed the bond using a weighted vote based on population, made possible by a bill pushed through the Legislature by Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher, D-San Diego, following a scandal following faulty revenue projections.

Making the issue even more contentious, SANDAG’s envisioned bikeway network is about a year behind schedule and $79 million over its initial budget. Also, seven miles of lanes have been indefinitely shelved since the ambitious project was first approved by the agency’s board in 2013.

The network is made up of nearly three dozen separate projects that go far beyond painting white lines on a road. The so-called protected bike lanes often separate riders from vehicle traffic using raised concrete, plastic bollards or parking spaces relocated several feet from a curb.

Many of the projects also include overhauling streets to add traffic circles and improving sidewalk crossings, among other fixes such as to storm drains.

Chula Vista Mayor Mary Salas said she strongly supports the bikeway program.

“I think this is the right thing to do,” she said. “I think it’s a matter of being able to complete what we’ve started, and I believe it will take people off the roads.”

Delays have largely been attributed to the complexity of the projects and neighborhood opposition to the loss or relocation of parking associated with building the lanes.

To date, nearly 9 miles of bike lanes have been completed and are open to the public under the project. Another 16 miles are under construction, with about 45 miles in the design phase.

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— Joshua Emerson Smith is a reporter for The San Diego Union-Tribune
Elected officials governing the region’s top transportation and planning agency approved on Friday, Jan. 10, $90 million in bonds to fund a suite of bike lane projects across the county, known as the Regional Bikeway Program.

The San Diego Association of Governments Board of Directors approved the issuance of the bonds over the criticism of some members that the agency should be less focused on building new bike lanes and more on expanding congested highways.

The vote will help secure the resources needed to complete about 70 miles of bike lanes across the region by 2024, which is expected to cost roughly $279 million in total.

Ahead of the vote, SANDAG Executive Director Hasan Ikhrata told the board that the projects were an important part of meeting a state mandate to reduce car and truck travel to curb greenhouse gases.

“This region needs to meet very strict state requirements,” he said. “You need to reduce vehicle miles travel. Bike investments would lead to reducing vehicle miles traveled.”

However, that argument proved unconvincing for about half of the board members, including County Supervisor Jim Desmond. After Friday’s public hearing he held a press conference slamming the agency’s bicycle program.

“Bicycle lanes do not help young families move their children around,” he told a gathering of reporters. “It does not help businesses moving goods around. It does not help the average everyday person who’s trying to get errands done.

“What we should be focused on is fixing our roads and infrastructure, and getting cars off the freeways that are idling,” he added.

Advertisement

SANDAG passed the bond using a weighted vote based on population, made possible by a bill pushed through the Legislature by Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher, D-San Diego, following a scandal following faulty revenue projections.

Making the issue even more contentious, SANDAG’s envisioned bikeway network is about a year behind schedule and $79 million over its initial budget. Also, seven miles of lanes have been indefinitely shelved since the ambitious project was first approved by the agency’s board in 2013.

The network is made up of nearly three dozen separate projects that go far beyond painting white lines on a road. The so-called protected bike lanes often separate riders from vehicle traffic using raised concrete, plastic bollards or parking spaces relocated several feet from a curb.

Many of the projects also include overhauling streets to add traffic circles and improving sidewalk crossings, among other fixes such as to storm drains.

Chula Vista Mayor Mary Salas said she strongly supports the bikeway program.

“I think this is the right thing to do,” she said. “I think it’s a matter of being able to complete what we’ve started, and I believe it will take people off the roads.”

Delays have largely been attributed to the complexity of the projects and neighborhood opposition to the loss or relocation of parking associated with building the lanes.

To date, nearly 9 miles of bike lanes have been completed and are open to the public under the project. Another 16 miles are under construction, with about 45 miles in the design phase.

— Joshua Emerson Smith is a reporter for The San Diego Union-Tribune


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