SACRAMENTO — The California Transportation Commission on Thursday gave the final leg of California 52 in San Diego a reprieve, agreeing to keep the highway in the state's transportation plans if county voters approve a sales tax increase in November.
Even if San Diegans won't raise the sales tax by half a cent on the dollar for transportation projects, the commission agreed to go ahead with California 52 from Tierrasanta to Santee if the region can find other local money for the project.
But if no local money can be raised--and officials say such funds are unlikely without the tax increase--the highway designed to relieve a large part of the worsening congestion on Interstate 8 will be deleted from the state's five-year plan, putting it in limbo.
Bill Tuomi, a senior planner with the San Diego Assn. of Governments, said the commission's action was needed to keep the Transportation Department working on the highway's design and engineering.
"We need to get a clear indication that if we fund it, they will direct the resources to the project," Tuomi said.
Without the guarantee provided by the commission Thursday, the highway would have been immediately removed from the state's five-year plan, an action that could have meant years of delay even if the voters approved the sales tax in November.
Tuomi said California 52, which will eventually stretch from La Jolla to Santee, is expected to take as many as 40,000 vehicles a day off Interstate 8, which now carries about 240,000 a day.
The connection from Tierrasanta to Santee is expected to cost from $200 million to $240 million, 80% of which will be paid by local funds if the sales tax passes.
The measure would raise $2.25 billion over 20 years, with $750 million of that going to state highways. The rest of the money would be used for mass transit and local roads.
Area Expected Highway
Assemblyman Larry Stirling (R-San Diego), whose district includes the entire stretch of the California 52 extension, said he was "eminently pleased" by the commission's action, which came after intense lobbying by Stirling and a group of East County officials and businessmen who support the highway.
"Large parts of Lakeside, Santee, El Cajon and Tierrasanta were developed on the assumption that this road would be there," Stirling said. "Twenty-five years later, we're just sputtering to completion. Interstate 8 has borne double its fair share for the past eight years or so."
The Transportation Commission on Thursday also agreed to move up plans to widen California 78 between Oceanside and Escondido to three lanes in each direction.
The first phase of that project, from San Marcos Boulevard to Interstate 15, is scheduled to begin in 1988 rather than 1990. The second phase, from Interstate 5 to College Boulevard, is now due to begin in 1989. The third phase, from College Boulevard to Melrose Avenue, will begin in 1990.