Will some Coronado voters be confused by the wording of a June ballot measure and support a tunnel they don’t want? Councilmember Barbara Denny thinks so. She considers the draft ballot language “unintentionally misleading” and called for revisions at the council’s January 19 and February 16 meetings.
The advisory vote will give residents a chance to weigh in on continued funding for the study of the proposed tunnel that would route naval traffic underground between bridge and base. Denny, who believes most residents oppose the tunnel, has advocated for such a vote since 2008. It won’t be the last tunnel vote — and it’s hardly the first.
The last advisory vote took place in November 1998, when residents voted in favor of seeking funding for a bored tunnel. In 1988, they rejected a “cut-and-cover” tunnel — the same option that will be studied next if voters support continued funding for the project. Caltrans requires consideration of the cut-and-cover alternative, and city council members (except Denny, who supports Park and Ride to address Navy traffic) say it would be a waste to have come this far without completing the environmental document, which means looking into all tunnel options.
The proposed ballot measure asks, “Do you support the City continuing to use existing federal, state and local funding to complete the study of long term traffic relief options, including a tunnel, between the Coronado Bridge and Naval Air Station North Island?”
Denny’s objections include advising the public why the vote will be on the June ballot rather than November's, when there is greater voter turnout; that the language inform voters that the $14 million-plus (to date) project covers one mile; and that it be made clear the tunnel option being studied will "daylight" in Coronado, not on the naval base (meaning the traffic will exit the tunnel on city streets near the base, rather than emerge on base property; an option that would result in about 13 homes being lost).
Mayor Casey Tanaka disagreed with Denny’s arguments and praised staff’s wording on the November 1998 ballot for being short and straightforward. If voters do signal a lack of support, Tanaka has stated that the tunnel project may not continue. Tanaka and Denny agree on one point. As Tanaka said at the January council meeting: “Democracy doesn’t work unless it is known what the majority wants.”