City council moves forward with effort to improve transit to airport

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SAN DIEGO (CNS) — The San Diego City Council voted unanimously Monday to move forward with a memorandum of understanding with regional transportation and government agencies regarding transportation projects at and near the San Diego International Airport.

The memorandum — which allows to city to begin forming a regional transportation plan with the San Diego County Regional Airport Authority, San Diego Unified Port District, and San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG) – – is the first major step in a long process to improve transit options to the airport, including the possibility of trolley stops.

“It’s critically important that our agencies work together in a meaningful way to make it easier and faster to travel around the region, especially when it comes to finally connecting our trolley system to the airport,” Mayor Kevin L. Faulconer said. “This formal agreement is another big step forward and demonstrates a commitment by San Diego’s leading transportation agencies to enhance transit connectivity, reduce traffic congestion and improve connections to the airport that meet the needs of the entire region.”

City Council President Georgette Gomez said she was pleased the council rallied unanimously behind the memorandum.

“Getting transit to the airport is a long time coming,” she said.

The agreement will allow the city to coordinate and collaborate with the above agencies, creating “long-range transportation projects,” according to city documents. The Airport Authority, SANDAG and Port Commission all approved the memorandum in February.

“The MOU sets a process by which the parties will work together to plan and implement transportation projects in the areas surrounding the San Diego International Airport, the adjacent waterfront, and associated local streets and roads,” the staff report on the item stated.

The memorandum would set up a process to set up fair-share funding and regional plan strategies as well as a place to solve disputes between parties.

On July 2, 2019, the Airport Authority announced a new 10-year airline operating and lease agreement with its airlines with the possibility of pre- approved funding up to $515 million for eligible airport-related public transportation projects, with the caveat other regional funding could be secured.

Councilman Mark Kersey reminded staff that this process and any projects impacted much more than just getting to and leaving San Diego International Airport.

“This is a regional project, not just an airport project,” he said.

The memorandum comes just a month after a similar agreement between acting Secretary of the Navy Thomas Modly and SANDAG to work together to revitalize the Navy’s Old Town Campus, which currently houses the Naval Information Warfare Systems Command.

That signing meant that the Navy is committed to the project — something that wasn’t necessarily a given. The previous Secretary of the Navy, Richard Spencer, was ousted two months after signing an initial memorandum of understanding in 2019.

The 70.5-acre property Interstate 5-adjacent property is just blocks from the Old Town Transit Center, a centrally located spot which already serves as a hub for much of the county’s mass transit.

In exchange for redeveloping a portion of the Navy’s Old Town Campus land into a larger and more comprehensive transit hub, the county will build new facilities to house the thousands of Naval cybersecurity experts and contractors currently on site.

The Old Town project and the signed memorandum have cleared two important hurdles for any future plans for a “Grand Central Station” connecting or offering transfers for Metropolitan Transit System bus and trolley service, Amtrak, Coaster commuter rail and other methods of transportation.

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