Over the objection of some neighborhood activists, the San Diego City Council voted 8-1 Tuesday to approve an agreement with the state paving the way for construction of Interstate 15 through the mid-city area.
The state has agreed to cover one of the eight blocks that will complete the interstate route. Under an amendment by Mayor Roger Hedgecock, the City Council committed itself to finding funds for an additional block of cover over the freeway.
Hedgecock said there is a consensus among the City Council and the community that the freeway would benefit San Diego. “We need to do the cut and cover (in a way) that it ties the community together,” he said. “One block does not do that. We should commit today to that additional block.”
Councilman Uvaldo Martinez, who voted against signing the freeway agreement, said he too realizes the need to ease the traffic congestion in the 40th Street area. But by agreeing to to provide a block of cover, Martinez said, “we in essence have relieved CalTrans from the responsibility of mitigating (the effects) of a state project.”
Although finishing the freeway is an important link in the national transportation system, Martinez said, “I would submit that the protection of the citizens is also in the national interest.”
Marla Marshall, an aide to Councilwoman Gloria McColl, who spearheaded the drive to complete the freeway, said “I was pleasantly surprised and pleased when the Mayor moved to provide an additional block of cover.”
J. Tom Hawthorne, a member of the California Transportation Commission, said he was happy that the city and state had reached an agreement. After the council vote, Hawthorne told Allen Jones, San Diego deputy director of planning, that he would “sure fight to help you get some extra funds” for additional cover.
By signing the agreement, the state agrees to cover one block of the proposed freeway between Polk and Orange avenues.
CalTrans officials chose this block because it is contiguous with Central Elementary School, at Central and Polk avenues, and Wilson Junior High School, at 40th Street and Orange Avenue.
CalTrans officials said the block of cover would lessen the automobile noise and pollution near the school. It would also provide space for a badly needed park; CalTrans plans to develop three parks in the area.
Council members plan to work with state legislators to find additional funding sources for the remaining blocks of cover before CalTrans completes the freeway design.
The city will also pursue such local funding sources as redevelopment tax increments and capital improvement funds. But no source of funding for the additional cover has yet been identified.
CalTrans said the proposed, one-block-covered freeway would cost $25 million and the department cannot afford the $100 million
needed to cover the full eight blocks.
The City Council in April borrowed $100,000 from the Mid-City Commercial Revitalization Project to study the freeway’s effects on the community and commercial revitalization efforts in the area. Members complained that the City Council should not vote on the agreement until they have the results of the study, which will be completed later this year.
CalTrans officials said that because it will take them at least three years to raise the money for the freeway, any recommendations from the report can be added to the freeway design. Construction on the proposed freeway is scheduled to begin in 1988 and should be completed in 1990, CalTrans officials said.