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.