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Sunday, Oct 1, 2023

TRANSPORTATION–San Ysidro Transport Center Moving Ahead Again

With Funding Restored, Work Could Begin Next Year

An ambitious plan to revamp transportation at the San Ysidro border crossing is going ahead, now that one of its sources of funding has been restored by the San Diego Association of Governments.

Sandag moved unanimously Feb. 25 to put $1.9 million in federal transportation enhancement funds back into the project to build The San Ysidro Intermodal Transportation Center.

The money for irrigation, landscaping and light-rail station improvements is part of a larger project to create a pedestrian plaza to serve the trolley station and the international border.

The project has support from several San Diego politicians.

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“This project is extremely important and vital to meet our region’s transportation needs. The current configuration is inefficient, overcrowded, and poses numerous risks for passengers, pedestrians and vehicles,” said San Diego City Councilman Byron Wear.

City Councilman Juan Vargas, who represents the San Ysidro area, agreed.

“This highly congested area is the focal point for pedestrian border crossings, generating a need for a host of transportation services, including the San Diego Trolley, taxicabs, public and private buses, shuttles and local jitneys.

“All this occurs in a very constrained geographical space; consequently, the activity is often haphazard, congested and inefficient,” he stated in a press release.

$15.8 Million Project

The overall project would spend $15.8 million to relocate the trolley station, relocate bus stops into dedicated bus bays, and improve traffic circulation.

The plan could also create a vehicle-free pedestrian plaza that would relieve station overcrowding and improve passenger flow to buses, the border and nearby employment centers, according to information from Sandag.

Of the $15.8 million amount, the Metropolitan Transit Development Board already has $8.3 million in hand from state and federal funds.

An additional $4.7 million has been approved for the project, and Sandag’s vote to restore $1.9 million leaves the board only $900,000 short of its goal, said Harvey Estrada, project manager with the MTDB.

The board plans to fill the gap with discretionary federal transportation dollars, state and local money and even private funding. The board may ask the McDonald’s Corp. for matching funds, since improvements would assist a nearby McDonald’s restaurant, Estrada said.

Estrada expects the issue to be discussed when the board meets again March 26. The design phase would be completed by August, with construction starting in early 2001, and finishing by the summer of 2002, he said.

For Berenice Trickett, president of the San Ysidro Chamber of Commerce, that moment couldn’t come too soon. For her, it’s obvious why trolley improvements are needed.

“Have you ever been down here on a Friday or Saturday night?” she asked rhetorically.

For Trickett, there are several issues, not the least of which is safety. As it currently stands, the trolley is in the middle of the street, and there is no area to load and unload passengers that’s out of the flow of traffic.

The improvements will also make it easier to get in and out of San Ysidro, making it more attractive for people to come to the area.

It will also make it easier for people to get into the business district of San Ysidro without having to cross three dangerous intersections, Trickett said.

Victim Of Politics?

The project, however, nearly fell victim to politics.

Originally, the San Ysidro project was fourth on Sandag’s list for enhancement funds. Only the top nine out of 55 projects were going to receive funding.

In early February, however, City Councilwoman Barbara Warden, who serves on the Sandag Transportation Subcommittee, wanted to drop the San Ysidro center and replace it with a lower priority project, the 11th-ranked San Diego River Bicycle and Pedestrian Path, priced at $4.1 million.

Vargas called Warden’s actions “political retribution” in response to his endorsement of Ron Roberts over Warden in San Diego’s mayoral race.

David Johnson, Warden’s press secretary, denied politics played a role. Although the project is good for San Ysidro, it does not have much effect on transportation overall , the money can only be used for landscaping and other amenities, he said.

Warden wanted to fund a project which would have been a better use of federal transportation money, getting “more bang for the buck,” Johnson said.

But Vargas urged the full Sandag board members to restore funding for San Ysidro, saying transit gridlock is a growing safety concern to residents.

Also, since 30 percent of the trolley ridership originates from San Ysidro, that makes improvements to the station a crucial component of the trolley system, he said.

Trickett noted the disputed $1.9 million of the project would go toward moving the trolley line out of the middle of the street , which would make the intersection safer, she said.

“I like the idea that we have funding for the project once again. The money wasn’t just for flowers and water,” Trickett said.


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