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San Diego, National City Chosen for Pilot Project to Reconnect Communities Split by Freeway

Times of San Diego

March 13, 2024

As part of a new state pilot program to reconnect communities that have been divided by highways, Caltrans officials Tuesday announced an effort to link southeast San Diego and National City.

Gov. Gavin Newsom’s Reconnecting Communities: Highways to Boulevards grant program will also reconnect two other underserved communities in Arcata and south San Francisco. The intent of the program is to increase access and traveling options in underserved and underinvested neighborhoods.

“California is once again leading the way to repair the shameful history of redlining and other exclusionary policies of the past,” Newsom said. “We are advancing equity in historically underserved and underinvested areas through a community-driven vision to reconnect neighborhoods and support more vibrant spaces for Californians.”

The Reconnecting Southeastern San Diego and National City Project intends to “holistically improve transportation options with the objective of reconnecting and reshaping land for the benefit of the community,” a statement from the Governor’s office reads.

After the construction of the Interstate 805 Corridor dating back to 1967, the communities of SESD and National City have been deeply affected by the history of redlining and dividing infrastructure.

The amount awarded for each project is unclear at this time.

“Transportation at its best is a uniter — connecting people and communities with convenient and safe access to jobs, family and services,” said California Transportation Secretary Toks Omishakin in National City on Tuesday morning. “Transportation at its worst is a barrier — dividing communities, increasing harms and cutting off access to opportunity.”

“We must strive to always unite and never divide, and today represents an important step in righting the wrongs of the past by putting people and communities first,” Omishakin said.

The pilot program seeks to convert underused highways into “multimodal corridors and vibrant public spaces,” a Caltrans statement reads. Caltrans will assist selected communities in working from concept to completed project.

Locally, the project “may include bicycle and pedestrian connections, light rail enhancements, bus shelters, the creation of parks, and green and communal spaces.”

“These collaborations will be unlike any in Caltrans history and empower a new generation of community-driven transportation decisions,” said Caltrans Director Tony Tavares. “Caltrans will work hand-in-hand with community-based partners and cities on solutions to reconnect neighborhoods that have been split by highway projects and help heal past harms.”

The state transportation agency will reach out in all three cities to develop, plan and ultimately build projects.

City News Service contributed to this article.

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