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A key focus of SANDAG’s 2021 Regional Plan is planning for smart cars and infrastructure to improve safety and reliability. Connected and autonomous vehicles plus their supporting infrastructure are core to 4 of the 5 Big Moves that will set the framework for the Plan: Complete Corridors, Mobility Hubs, Flexible Fleets and Next OS, according to the SANDAG website. Courtesy photo/SANDAG
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SANDAG officials divided on new transportation plan

Above: A key focus of SANDAG’s 2021 Regional Plan — “5 Big Moves” — is a framework that includes Complete Corridors, Transit Leap, Mobility Hubs, Flexible Fleets and Next OS, according to the SANDAG website. Courtesy photo/SANDAG

REGION — A new aggressive proposal to invest in transit and eliminate highway projects in North and East counties is ongoing between the board and executive director of the San Diego Association of Governments.

After the last board meeting, several supervisors and local officials sitting on the board railed against the new proposed project to redirect TranstNet taxes to transit projects.

Supervisors Jim Desmond (District 5) and Kristin Gaspar (D3), along with Poway Mayor Steve Vaus, who all sit on the SANDAG board, have been vocal in their opposition to a plan not including highway improvements in North and East counties.

They have called the new plan a broken promise to voters who passed the tax and to those residents in rural areas more dependent on freeways than transit.

TransNet was approved by voters in 2004 to address the county’s growing issues with transportation issues.

However, SANDAG Executive Director Hasan Ikhrata’s plan calls to eliminate 12 highway projects including those on SR 78, SR 67 and SR 52, Interstate 5 and I-15.

Desmond has said another aspect is for public safety along with SANDAG staff front loading transit projects.

While he’s not totally against transit, Desmond wrote in The Coast News it works best in the urban core, while freeways and roads are critical to economic growth.

“Currently, 3.5% of San Diegans ride public transit, which means the rest of the 96.5% of people need their cars and most importantly need their roads,” Desmond wrote. “Children need to get to school, parents need to get to their jobs, this can’t be done strictly using mass transit.”

Proponents of the new plan, though, say a push to drive residents to transit will help the region meet state climate goals.

Additionally, they say adding freeway lanes will not solve traffic congestion, but add to it.

Also, the possibility of charging motorists to pay to drive on freeways during peak times has been floated as well, prompting harsh backlash from Vaus, other SANDAG board members and residents.

“Turn our freeways into fee-ways? No way,” Vaus tweeted on May 13.

Still, Ikhrata, along with San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer, are on board with the new vision.

Ikhrata said included in the long-term vision is to meet the state’s requirement of a 19% reduction in greenhouse gasses by 2035, according to the Voice of San Diego.

SANDAG unveiled its “5 Big Moves” plan several weeks ago, although the SANDAG board rejected the proposal.

The plan called for complete corridors, transit leap, mobility hubs, flexible fleets and an integrated platform to tie the strategies together.