Our hometown Seattle will soon be eclipsed by another city (a more conservative one!) when it comes to bicycle infrastructure. The San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG) recently approved a $200 million, ten-year plan to build out 77 miles of new bikeways. Many of the 42 projects are focused on completing two bike corridors that have been on the drawing board for years, the 44-mile Coastal Rail Trail and the 21-mile Inland Rail Trail.
It’s another example of a region taking charge of its transportation future, and not waiting for Congress to fund its needs.
We continue to be baffled at how other major cities, facing seemingly the same fiscal, political and community issues and obstacles as Seattle when it comes to expanding and improving bike facilities, nonetheless seem to clear the hurdles. Though the Seattle region is blessed to have several wonderful regional trails (Burke-Gilman and Sammamish), it is struggling to build out an in-city bicycle facility network. According to a City website, Seattle has invested “nearly $36 million in bicycle improvements” in the last four year. (To be fair, the numbers aren’t apples-to-apples. The $36m is a City number, while San Diego’s $200m is a regional funding number.)
San Diego’s groundwork was laid back in 2010. That’s when the SANDAG Board approved “Riding to 2050: San Diego Regional Bicycle Plan.” The Bike Plan was “developed to support implementation of the Regional Comprehensive Plan and the 2050 Regional Transportation Plan (RTP), both of which call for more transportation options and a balanced regional transportation system that supports smart growth and a more sustainable region.”
SANDAG is employing an innovative approach: Rather than “designing and building one project at a time, design work will proceed on all 42 bike projects in the early action program. . . .This will place each one in a more competitive position for grant funding when it becomes available.
The program is funded by 1% of the proceeds from a half-cent transportation tax, which voters extended for 40 years in 2008 with by a 67%-23% vote. Learn more from this fact sheet about TransNet.
There is a trade-off for the $200m program. There will be less regional funding available for local/community-based “bicycle and pedestrian projects, bicycle and pedestrian master plans, education and awareness initiatives, and bike racks.” Still, local advocacy groups are on board: the San Diego County Bicycle Coalition, WalkSanDiego, Move San Diego, and BikeSD all support the EAP.
The criteria for prioritizing early funding of projects includes user demand, addressing network gaps, project readiness, bicycle crashes and a variety of other factors.
View the briefing paper/project list prepared for the board.
Learn more: SANDAG OKs $200M for bike projects, San Diego Union-Tribune
Larry Ehl is the founder and publisher of Transportation Issues Daily. In the public sector, Larry was Federal Relations Manager for Washington State DOT; Chief of Staff to US Senator Slade Gorton; and was twice elected to the Edmonds School Board.