Funding Our Transportation System

Funding for our transportation network comes from a variety of sources at the federal, state, and local level. In the past, our region looked primarily to the federal and state governments to fund projects. But as resources have become scarce, communities have increasingly developed local revenue sources to supplement federal and state funding. Revenues from the regional TransNet half-cent sales tax, other local taxes, developer impact fees, fares, tolls, and additional local sources now pay for more than half of our transportation improvements.

TransNet is a countywide half-cent sales tax dedicated exclusively to transportation improvements and environmental conservation in the San Diego region. Originally approved by voters in 1987, the program was extended with two-thirds voter support in 2004. The extension will generate an additional $14 billion.

During the last 25 years, TransNet revenues have been leveraged to secure hundreds of millions of dollars in federal and state matching funds to help make the region’s big picture vision for transportation into a reality including:

  • The SPRINTER commuter rail service between Oceanside and Escondido
  • The COASTER commuter rail service between Oceanside and San Diego
  • Trolley extensions to Santee, Old Town, Mission Valley, La Mesa, and San Diego State University
  • Completion of SR 56 and extension of SR 52
  • Completion of the I-15 Express Lanes from Escondido to San Diego
  • The Trolley Renewal Project to modernize the system and add low-floor vehicles (to be completed in 2015)
  • The SuperLoop circular bus system serving the North University City area of San Diego, including UC San Diego
  • Rapid bus services along the I-15 corridor from Escondido to Downtown San Diego, Escondido to Sorrento Mesa/UTC/UC San Diego, and across the Mid-City area between San Diego State University and Downtown San Diego

Other TransNet-funded projects currently in development include:

  • The Mid-Coast Corridor Transit Project to extend the Trolley Blue Line from Old Town to University City
  • Rapid bus service from the Otay Mesa Port of Entry, through eastern Chula Vista to Downtown San Diego and back
  • A $200 million program to expand the regional bicycle network
  • A 28-mile Express Lanes facility in the median of I-805, between SR 905 and I-5

Funding sources typically carry restrictions on their use, specifying what, when, where, and how they should be spent. The TransNet ballot measures, for example, included a list of specific projects with funding priority. Federal and state funds also are often restricted to certain modes of transportation, such as highway, bus, rail, or bike/pedestrian enhancements. SANDAG does not usually receive the funds all at once. Rather, allocations come into the region over time, requiring expenditures to be carefully phased based on revenue projections. Numerous factors, ranging from the state of the economy to new state and federal legislation, can affect the availability and use of the funding.

In light of all these factors, a detailed funding strategy has been developed for San Diego Forward: The Regional Plan to effectively allocate funds and maximize our limited resources to provide a range of transportation choices for the region.