At build out in 2037, San Diego State University’s Mission Valley campus will create 45,174 new car trips per weekday on area roads, according to the latest traffic analysis. As many as 19,099 more vehicle trips could be added to the mix when the university’s 35,000-person stadium reaches maximum capacity for sporting events or concerts.
The new transportation figures were included in the university’s draft environmental impact report, which was published Monday. The study, required by state law, considers the effects of the university’s proposed development plan for the 132 acres of land it plans to purchase from the city of San Diego. The report is being circulated for a 60-day public review and comment period that ends on Oct. 3.
The California State of University Board of Trustees must approve the environmental document before construction can start.
In the November election, SDSU won the right to negotiate to buy the Mission Valley land where SDCCU Stadium is now. The environmental impact report is key to the transaction as it could prove a bargaining chip for one side or the other. It also commits the university to various measures — such as improvements to busy intersections and building restrictions in areas where birds are nesting — that could lessen the impact of its satellite campus on wildlife and other resources.
City officials have indicated that San Diego needs a certified document in place before it can finalize deal terms.
The project studied involves 4,600 residential units, 1.5 million square feet of campus office and lab space, 100,000 square feet of medical office space, 95,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space, 400 hotel rooms and a mixed-use stadium with a 35,000-person capacity. The environmental analysis identifies substantial, and sometimes unavoidable, impacts on the area’s air quality, culture, noise levels and wildlife. For instance, the current stadium, which would be demolished once a new facility is erected, is considered a historic building.
Car traffic, however, appears to be of outsized significance.
The report notes that 13 intersections, 12 freeway segments and four on-ramps will be greatly affected on a regular basis. On stadium event days, 17 intersections and 17 freeway segments will be significantly impacted. Mitigation measures, such as additional lanes and more efficient traffic signals, have been identified but are labeled unfeasible for the time being because of required coordination with city or regional agencies.
Still, SDSU has committed to paying a portion of some roadway improvements. It would, for instance, cover nearly half of the cost associated with traffic signal improvements along Friars Road from River Run Drive to Stadium Way, according to a related traffic impact document also released Monday.
The university’s biggest contribution to potential congestion is, per the report, what’s called a “transportation demand management” program that should result in 14 percent fewer average daily car trips than would otherwise be expected. The program emphasizes alternative transit options for event goers, office workers and residents. It calls for a dedicated transportation coordinator, ample bike parking, shower facilities for people who work on site, online tools and rides home for commuters.
As a result, the completed campus project will result in an additional 45,174 average daily weekday trips — not including 8,104 “pass-by” trips from vehicles already traveling down Mission Village Drive — versus 52,780 new trips without the program, according to the analysis prepared by the university’s traffic engineers.
For comparison, the university initially estimated that its Mission Valley project would generate 55,140 daily trips. That preliminary projection did not factor in the reduction in trips from alternative modes of transit, said Gina Jacobs, who is the university’s vice president of the development.
The latest daily trips estimate, however, doesn’t account for popular football or soccer games. On Saturdays, with a stadium event taking place, the project is expected to generate nearly 26 percent fewer trips than on a weekday. But a capacity stadium event would result in around 19,099 new vehicle trips, according to the report.
In September, SDSU will host three public forums on its environmental impact report. The first is scheduled to take place on Sept. 12 at noon at its alumni building. Per state law, the university will respond to all written comments submitted during the 60-day review period in the final version of the document.
ARTICLE BY: THE SAN DIEGO UNION TRIBUNE | JENNIFER VAN GROVEAUG
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