SANDAG prepares for infrastructure stimulus


Federal funds anticipated

The region is preparing for a possible federal infrastructure stimulus package by identifying transportation, transit and public works projects that will be ready to put people to work in the next six to 12 months.

The region’s transportation planning agency, the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG), is orchestrating the region’s wish list, which includes more than 1,000 projects totaling more than $7.5 billion.

“This represents the universal what’s ready,” said Gary Gallegos, executive director of SANDAG.

The infrastructure projects would add almost 96,000 jobs, $5 billion in wages and more than $12 billion in the region’s Gross Metropolitan Product, staff member Dan Martin told the board of directors at their Dec. 19 meeting.

The list is not prioritized and it is unknown which projects are even eligible for funding until Congress establishes criteria.

Besides being ready to go as soon as possible, energy efficient projects may be given priority, said Del Mar Mayor Crystal Crawford, who spoke with Senator Barbara Boxer about the legislation.

SANDAG and elected officials are campaigning heavily for the region, meeting with Congressional delegates and testifying before Congress. A package is expected to be ready for President-elect Barack Obama to sign as soon as he takes office.

Several major projects on the list are along the Interstate 5 North Coast Corridor, including high-occupancy-vehicle lanes from Manchester Avenue to State Route 78 and a $10 million habitat restoration as mitigation for freeway construction impacts.

Solana Beach and Del Mar submitted $14 million and $15 million in transportation projects, respectively, mostly for street repairs and resurfacing. Big-ticket items included $3.3 million for the Torrey Pines Bridge in Del Mar and Solana Beach’s $12 million streetscape plan for Highway 101.

The region’s two smallest cities each have more than $11 million in public works projects ready to advertise for contractors in the next year. Del Mar’s most prominent projects include the 21st Street lift station and the 17th Street safety center. The Solana Beach sewer pump station and Del Mar Shores beach stairs replacement are the biggest projects there.

“We’re hopeful,” said Solana Beach City Manager David Ott. “If there is going to be money, we believe our projects are worthy because some even have regional implications, like the pump station.”

The comprehensive list will be incorporated to a statewide document to be submitted to Congress for consideration, Gallegos said.

At the same time, as the region is preparing to ramp up federally-funded infrastructure projects, it is also bracing for the possible shut down of high-profile transportation projects that are still under construction.

With the state’s budget still not passed and a credit market freeze, state officials are threatening to cut off payments to construction projects throughout California.

SANDAG officials predicted up to $734 million in transportation projects could be affected in the county.

Several SANDAG directors urged state legislators to fix the budget so highway projects will not have to halt work before they are complete.

However, projects currently underway are not included on the federal stimulus package list, Gallegos said, and may not be eligible for federal funding under that bill.

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