Too Many Freeways, Enviros Tell San Diego

     SAN DIEGO (CN) – Environmental groups say a 40-year regional transportation plan for San Diego County relies too heavily on freeway construction and would increase vehicle miles traveled by 50 percent, in violation of a state law that seeks to reduce vehicle miles.



     The Cleveland National Forest Foundation and the Center for Biological Diversity claim the 600-page San Diego Association of Governments’ 2050 plan is not a “transit and infill-focused plan” that will meet the goals of state Senate Bill 375.
     That state law seeks to “coordinate regional transportation and land use plans in order to promote compact, transit-oriented communities that will help the state achieve its greenhouse gas reduction targets by reducing miles traveled,” according to the complaint.
     The plaintiffs say they warned the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG) and the California Attorney General that “such an auto-oriented approach undermines any attempt to ensure smart, city-centered growth, and sets the region on a course that is inconsistent with the state’s climate objectives.”
     The environmentalists say that in certifying the environmental impact report, the defendants “failed to analyze adequately the environmental impacts of the project such as impacts on transportation, air quality and public health, climate change, and agricultural resources; failed to analyze adequately the cumulative and growth-inducing impacts of the project; failed to consider a reasonable range of alternatives to the project or conduct an adequate analysis of the alternatives the EIR did include; failed to analyze adequately or adopt feasible mitigation measures that would substantially lessen the project’s significant environmental impacts; and failed to recirculate the EIR after adding significant new information.”
     The environmental impact report shows that the plan takes a “business as usual” approach that will “inevitably spur sprawling growth through the region,” the plaintiffs say. Instead of reducing vehicle miles traveled, “the plan would increase them by 50 percent over the next few decades.”
     The environmentalists say the anticipated increase in miles traveled springs from the plan’s “reliance on freeway expansion, particularly in the first two decades of project implementation, to meet the region’s transportation mobility needs.”
     The plan calls for the “widening of numerous freeways and highways within urbanized areas … thereby diverting critical resources from public transit in those areas,” the groups say.
     The plan would widen State Routes 67, 76, 94 and 905, as well as Interstate 8, “in currently undeveloped, rural areas of the county, thereby inducing sprawl in the region,” the plaintiffs say.
     While the plan does include some new public transit, “much of this transit occurs in the middle and latter phases of the plan, after highways and freeways have been expanded, further ensuring that automobiles remain the predominant mode of travel in the region,” according to the complaint.
     The groups say that development of rural areas “is environmentally destructive” and results in “the loss of forest, sensitive habitats, and agricultural lands and increases air and water pollution.”
     They seek an injunction to stop SANDAG from “taking any actions to implement, fund or construct any portion or aspect of the project pending full compliance with the requirements of” the California Environmental Quality Act.
     They are represented by Rachel Hooper with Shute, Mihaly & Weinberger of San Francisco.

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