The Coronado Tunnel Commission met on September 10 to discuss the next step in their proposal to build a 1.4-mile underground tunnel that would redirect military traffic between the bay bridge and North Island naval base. The tunnel would minimize the impact of traffic that funnels into the community from the bridge.
Resistance to the plan has come from the Navy (which cites concerns about terrorism), residents, and non-residents employed in Coronado, who would help pay for the project with a minimum five-dollar toll.
“It’s an eye-opener on how much resistance there is,” said Tom Ritter, the new assistant city manager, describing his introduction to the project. Ritter replaces Jim Benson, a tunnel supporter who argued that Coronado’s congestion problem is San Diego’s problem as well.
What Ritter calls “a very interesting half-a-billion-dollar project” has yet to receive any outside funding, yet the commission has inched along and nearly completed the environmental phase of the project. Completion now depends on the Navy and Caltrans reaching consensus on option 4B, in which the tunnel would open off-base.
To get this far, the Coronado Tunnel Commission says it has spent $13 million, obtained mostly from grants. When the environmental phase is done and the project is shovel-ready, the tunnel commission will seek a $30 million grant, said a spokeswoman.
With plans to begin construction mid 2010 (according to coronado.ca.us/tcp_web/timeline.asp), the commission is preparing to launch a public outreach campaign.
“Public opinion is a big part of a 550-million-dollar project,” Ritter said. Despite the lack of federal, state, or local support, members say they’re moving ahead.
A third naval ship is slated to dock at North Island in 2010. “This isn’t a project just for today,” said Ritter, who thinks there has been too little vision in the community in terms of what traffic conditions will be like 10 to 20 years from now.