A New Look at a Regents Rd Bridge

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Carving up the planned road system to create a private enclave

COMMENTARY

by Louis Rodolico

There is quite a wrestling match in progress involving freeing up funds for the Regents Road Bridge. City Planning is compiling a new EIR which is scheduled to be presented in November 2016 to City Council. Council could vote to eliminate the bridge and remove it from the plan, or to build it.  There may be other options. The development in UC and Clairemont was designed around this bridge being built. Had the original planners suspected that these roads would not be built, the communities would have been laid out much differently.

Because of a lack of alternative routes, the traffic on the Genesee corridor creates an increased danger. This document contains information from community members, publications and my own observations. It tries to take a fresh look at Traffic & Fire issues. In Philadelphia I have served as a pro-bono community advocate for transportation projects in the 300 million dollar range and have been a resident of UC since 2001.

While driving my son to little league we were both witness to a middle school student being hit by a car and thrown onto the sidewalk like a ragdoll.  We had been waiting in our car at the overburdened intersection of Governor and Genesee. Immediately adults came to the side of the child and were on their cell phones summoning assistance. The kid needed assistance to sit up and was obviously disoriented. Also, the neighbor of one of my co-workers was killed there on his bicycle in 2010.

Planning is a centuries old art, the number of houses and businesses in this area were planned around the completion of the Regents Road Bridge and the extension Governor Drive West to Gilman Drive. The Governor extension to Gillman was removed from the plan decades ago.  Climate Change and the intensity of recent fires points to a fresh look at this decision.

Over the next century, building the bridge will save the region about 1.4 billion dollars and result in thousands fewer traffic accidents involving; property damage, injury and death. All this loss so a few UC properties can gain a property value increase and or a more pristine view of the canyon, at the risk and expense of everyone else.

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Illustration 01 shows where there are no secondary north-south roads which are utilized for inter-community trips.  We can see why so much traffic  is funneled thru Genesee, it has the landfill and Marine Base to the east and two uncompleted roads to the west all placing additional north-south traffic on Genesee corridor.

The Interstates are primary roads that are also burdened by the incompletion of the bridge.

Governor to Gillman was removed from the plan decades ago, and now the Regents Road Bridge is in jeopardy. Failing to build these arteries gives us the congestion and high accident rate we have today.

Carving out a private enclave in West UC puts additional load on the Genesee corridor and raises the accident and mortality rate for the community at large.  No one is against living in a gated private community but it makes no sense to create one by carving out a hole in the planned urban road grid.

Conflagration & Fire Storms

With Climate Change, wildfires are an ever increasing risk. Many areas of the UC community currently have only one way out. It is sober safety practice to have multiple ways out.  If there is another conflagration, like in 2003, then most if not all the roads are more likely to become grid locked. East UC residents will be directed away from the Genesee gridlock and east into the conflagration.  Ironically the west residents, who are fighting the bridge, will receive the best route out. This puts emergency personnel in an impossible position. Instead of protecting persons and property their priority becomes traffic and the added difficulty of positioning emergency equipment. Emergency responders have given up waiting for the Regents Road Bridge and are implementing other strategies, like the one year pilot rapid response team based in West UC. However the rapidly growing senior community is in Southeast UC.

Emergency equipment availability and access is something insurance company underwriters recognize when determining fire insurance rates. Governor to Gillman provides an excellent escape route and a means to bring equipment in from the north. The new bridges can also provide an area of refuge as shown in illustration 05.

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Loss of Life

There are three schools, Curie Elementary, Standley Middle, and UCHS, with 3,500 students near the Genesee and Governor Intersection. It’s a disgrace that any community would hold itself and their school children in such low regard. Pedestrians need to be extremely careful when crossing over-congested intersections on the Genesee corridor even if they have the right of way.

By having all the north south traffic meant to be shared by Governor to Gillman, Regents and Genesee funneled thru the Genesee corridor there is greater overall risk for the community. The deaths and injuries are a matter of record. If the bridge is not built, the next century will result in thousands of additional accidents involving property damage, injury and death.

Unfortunately when there is a tragedy on the Genesee corridor those who do not want the Regents Road Bridge built find a way to blame the victims.  As a community we need to recognize that failing to complete the Regents Road Bridge and Governor Drive to Gillman is the biggest part of the problem

New Firehouse:

South UC has one of the slowest emergency response times. Currently rescue vehicles on Genesee are forced to head southbound on the north bound lanes during the evening rush hours of 3Pm to 7PM. The 2016 firehouse ballot attempts to compensate for not putting in these roads by adding two additional firehouses. One of the ballot proposed locations is at Stresemann and Governor which is extreme West UC. This location will improve response times and lower the fire insurance rates for West UC but in order to provide for East UC a second firehouse is proposed at Judicial and nobel.  Benefits of the fire house radiate out from it. If we build the bridge we only need one new firehouse centrally located near the Standley Rec Center. According to the ballot a new single engine firehouse costs $232 million a century.

Elections have Consequences:

This is a statement I hear regularly from those who do not want the bridge. When Lightner won re-election in 2012 it was seen as a mandate to kill the bridge for good. Things are being set up to try and have the bridge off the plan before councilwoman Lightner leaves office in November.

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Actuarial Traffic Calculation:

If Genesee were to have a third of its traffic diverted to Regents Road the accident rate at Genesee would drop to 44% of the current rate. Using the probability of thirds the risk of accidents can be represented by: 1-1, 1-2, 1-3, 2-1, 2-2, 2-3, 3-1, 3-2, & 3-3. If 1&2 are assigned to Genesee the accident rate here drops to 4/9 or 44% of the current rate.  Regents would have an accident rate determined by 3-3 so it would be 11% of the current Genesee rate.  When Regents Bridge is built residents in West UC will have less need for the Genesee /Governor intersection.

New Market Shopping Center:

This shopping center at Regents and Governor was intended to be hooked into the North extension of Regents Road and have access to additional customers thru Gillman. Years ago this center, like others, paid for the roads to be built and they have struggled due to their incompletion.

Traffic Man Hours:

Citizens sitting in idling vehicles represent a loss of productivity. It can take 20 minutes longer to get thru the Genesee-Governor intersection during the rush hours, 1/3 hour x 15,000 cars x 250 work days equals more than one million man hours wasted each year. At $20 per hour average = $20 million in lost wages each year. Building the bridge would cut these times in half or One Billion Dollars over the next century.

Take a simple thing like the current overcrowding at Doyle Elementary. Approximately 300 students from North UC will now need to commute on the Genesee corridor each day. Averaging an additional 7 minutes a day would yield 2100 minutes or an additional 35 man hours a day.  At $20.00 per hour works out to $700 per day, at 250 days a year equals $175,000 a year or $17.5 million over the next century. That would pay for a third of the cost of the bridge. One could easily justify doubling or tripling that number if they consider all the additional miles the community and emergency vehicles would need to drive because the bridge is not there.

Gasoline & Pollution:

Idling cars consume about a gallon of gasoline an hour. So using the calculation above a million gallons of gasoline wasted each year. $3.50 per gallon equals $3.5 Million Dollars per year. Play these expenses out over time and the Regents Road Bridge and the Governor Drive Connection to Gillman could already have been built several times over. Thousands of idling cars and all the pollution associated with it. Are the groups opposed to the bridges concerned about the environment?  Cutting drive times in half saves us $175 Million over the next century.

 

Where the Local Community Anger Comes From:

Advocates who do not want the Regents Road Bridge built have this talking point:  “how can you wish that traffic and the danger it represents on “US” The “US” in their mind is West UC. The “them” is East of Genesee.

The East side of UC is not advocating danger on anyone, East UC wearily awaits the planners intended balance.

It’s devolved into a tale of two cities. In theory the extra lanes at Genesee are to be taken out of the plan but once all the road approaches have been eliminated at Regents the right of ways will still exist to add additional lanes at Genesee. They could be put back in the plan with the stroke of a pen.

See Illustrations 4A, 4B & 4C below. A linear lake could get us buy in from Fire Agencies since they could have multiple helicopter’s simultaneously drawing water in fire emergencies. The lake becomes a savior of life and property when humans are in tragedy. The water department could use the lake as a linear bio-filter. A ten acre lake with an average depth of 5 feet could bio-filter over 270,000 gallons a day with a 12 day cycle. These could be two good partners.

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It would also be feasible to have a maintenance road next too or between the two tracks or place a trolley line underground next to the relocated tracks. We could then have a teardrop trolley loop that went underground somewhere in the vicinity of the UTC mall, remaining under Genesee heading south, cross underground west through Rose Canyon until it came out of the tunnel somewhere near Gillman. This might give us another partner to help with the project. Possibly trolley stops at UC High and Regents. UC high could have a bridge or tunnel for safe cross at Genesee. Regents could have a commuter parking lot.

All this would eventually be determined by an Engineering Review.

I will attempt to see if the UCPG, UCCA and the Friends of Rose Canyon will support burying the train and building the Regents Road Bridge.

Developers had to hand over about 20 million dollars in the 60’s to pay for these road improvements. These funds are currently being spent down. How much was spent needs to be explained. If Regents Road Bridge is off the plan, where does the money go then? So much has been spent to date and we lost a buy in with the trolley project, we should consider additional partners. We could also consider upgrading Rose Canyon much like San Clemente which welcomes the public with; parking, trash, bathrooms and water.

The Regents Road Bridge Site is public property. An elevated bridge will suffice to satisfy reasonable naturalist concerns, with substantially less interference than the existing belching, clanging & screaming 300 ton Iron Horse making its way through the canyon on a regular basis.

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With global warming, droughts and subsequent fires we should consider building the Governor extension to Gillman as an ambulance route and egress road during a conflagration. More egress options equals better odds. This road is ideal for fire equipment positioning during a conflagration. Have been told how ridiculous it is to bring this up.

Hopefully there is public will and funds to improve Rose Canyon by; building the bridges, mitigating the train, possibly adding a body of water, provide public access, parking, water and bathrooms. I am hopeful that the community will come to its senses on this issue. Drivers should not have to circumvent the community, via interstate, to move within the community

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and they should not be directed by police to turn east into a conflagration in order to escape it. Not building the Bridge represents an unfunded liability for San Diego see illustration 06 at right. Also we certainly do not want it to come to a victims naming ceremony for the completed Regents Road Bridge.

It is ironic that the Mayor, who is all about jobs, has allied himself with UC leaders who push jobs out of UC because of traffic. These are the same leaders who are fighting the bridge. For now we just wait for the next inevitable tragedy.   Unfortunately when there is a tragedy on the Genesee corridor those who do not want the Regents Road Bridge built find a way to blame the victims. As a community we need to recognize that failing to complete the Regents Road Bridge and Governor Drive to Gillman is the biggest part of the problem.

Conclusion:

So one billion for lost man hours, add gas and we’re at $1.175 billion. A second firehouse costs$ 232 million per century so not building the bridge cost us taxpayers about $1.4 billion over the next century. Let’s not forget the thousands of additional accidents involving; property damage, injury and death. The Regents Road Bridge EIR should be funded and the Regents Road Bridge should remain in the plan.

With all the trials of trying to provide safety and health care for our families some government officials are party to twisting environmental laws to eliminate a critical road, a road that would improve emergency travel times in an area with some of the lowest times in the city, all the while silently diluting the impact by distributing the cost to the taxpayers in all 8 San Diego City Districts.

Louis Rodolico has been a resident of University City since 2011 and has been a pro-bono advocate for over 30 years.  For more information or to reach Louis email: unite.uc@gmail.com