Chula Vistans discuss SANDAG’s rapid-transit plans

Cost, practicality, and bridge discussed

Chula Vista residents attended a breakfast meeting to discuss the plans
  • Chula Vista residents attended a breakfast meeting to discuss the plans

Chula Vista residents continue to seek alternatives to SANDAG’s plan to run a 21-mile rapid-transit bus line from the Otay border crossing down east Palomar Street and into downtown San Diego.

At councilmember Pat Aguilar’s monthly breakfast on April 18, SANDAG senior transportation planner Jennifer Williamson gave a presentation on three alternate routes for the bus-transit system, originally planned as a light-rail system.

Neighborhood opposition to plans 1A & 1B, both of which put a bus route and bridge through the center of a community, was first aired on KUSI’s “Turko Files” in March. Residents interviewed by reporter Michael Turko pointed out that the proposed transit system included a bridge up to 26 feet high that would run down the thin green belt strip on east Palomar Street and pass within eight feet of some residents’ homes.

At the breakfast meeting, Aguilar affirmed that everyone in attendance was in favor of a rapid-transit system but that resident opposition came from the choice of routes. SANDAG alternative 2 bypasses the eastern Chula Vista condo community and proceeds down Olympic Parkway, a four-lane highway already in existence.

According to Williamson, the alternatives that include a bridge cost about $12 million; the third alternative that goes around the community is about $5 million.

A critic at the breakfast suggested that the first two alternatives were more costly and negatively impact the community to shave only two minutes off the commute.

Williamson responded that the point of the system was reliability and consistent travel time and that the Olympic Parkway alternative would have variables that might interfere with the transit time.

The rapid-transit bus plan is an integral part of Chula Vista’s continued eastward build-out. According to SANDAG’s South Bay Rapid Transit documents:

“The dedication of right-of-way and/or easements to accommodate the proposed Project has been incorporated into development intensity decisions, mitigation findings and conditions of approval for traffic and circulation elements of the Otay Ranch GDP/SRP and related development projects including Villages 1, 5, and 6 and the Freeway Commercial portion of Planning Area 12 – ORTC, and the proposed Eastern Urban Center project.

“Decisions regarding implementation of the proposed Project must consider consistency with previous plans, conditions of approval, mitigation measures, and agreements to ensure the proposed Project will provide traffic relief as incorporated within development agreements approved by the City of Chula Vista.”

Mayor Cheryl Cox and county supervisor Greg Cox sit on SANDAG’s transportation committee. SANDAG’s preferred project is alternate 1A, the two-lane bridge through the community.

Aguilar said the decision was SANDAG’s, not the city council’s. However, in response to further questioning, Aguilar noted that if three members or a majority of the council supported an alternate route, the council would be able to “request, advise, or direct the mayor to take a different position.”

In a recent “Turko Files” update, councilmember Rudy Ramirez called the bridge a “faux pas” and said he opposed it. Councilmember Salas said the “neighborhood concerns are really valid” and that an alternate plan should be considered.

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In response to Ms. Williamson's argument that utilizing Olympic Parkway would cause variables that would interfere with the system's reliability, it was also pointed out that if SANDAG were to construct its dedicated corridor on Olympic Parkway instead of East Palomar, the combination of the use of the dedicated corridor coupled with the devices that the buses will have to control intersection traffic lights, there would be no interruption of schedule reliability. I believe this is an important point as it seems to be one of SANDAG's two main objection to alternatives to the bridge. It would save almost $7 million of taxpayer money, save the impacted neighborhoods, keep pedestrian traffic less hazardous near 9 (nine) elementary and middle schools, and the only remaining drawback would be reduced walk-ability for the estimated 5-8% of the total ridership that would prefer having walkable access. Is this really good planning by SANDAG?

If memory serves, Olympic Parkway was designated as a light rail corridor at the very beginning of the planning for the Otay Ranch development. In fact, I believe that the approval of a higher density of dwelling units in the western parcel (Village 1 and others) was a trade-off in return for the availability of EW transit to connect riders with the North South existing light rail trolley...that trade-off was seen as essential to mitigate resistance based on anticipation of increasing traffic congestion. City records should provide greater detail and reference...such as testimony of the Otay Ranch and city planning folks as they sought the city's approval for the dwelling unit density they proposed and eventually built. I am disappointed that the transit access has been such a long time coming.

Both Monet and Triviana communities are in high outrage that Cheryl Cox and Sandag would even propose or approve such a route coming through our beautiful neighborhood. This route needs to be eliminated from the options. If any of them lived here do you think this would be happening?

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