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In two weeks covering the legal dispute over the San Diego Association of Governments’ transportation plan, subject of a recent legal defeat, the most common reader feedback I’ve received is that it’s impossible to envision what’s included in the gigantic blueprint.

The plan covers half of a human lifetime (40 years) and has a price tag straight from a Bond villain’s ransom demand ($200 billion).

It turns out many of the specified projects in the plan that aren’t scheduled to break ground any time soon are very much rough drafts at the moment.

Take, for example, the proposed new trolley line stretching from Pacific Beach to El Cajon, by way of Clairemont, Kearny Mesa, Mission Valley and San Diego State University.

It’s a nearly $1.3 billion project that represents one of many attempts to dramatically expand the scope of the current trolley system.

It’s also not scheduled to break ground any time in the next three decades.

But while the plan’s master project list details which neighborhoods the line will service, a SANDAG spokesperson explained that the path is best understood as a very rough outline that’s likely to change.

With projects of this magnitude, SANDAG and the cities within it need to engage in massive community outreach efforts in disrupted neighborhoods, which spur major changes to the proposal.

But that hasn’t happened yet with the Pacific Beach- to-El Cajon trolley extension, or with many other proposed transit projects.

SANDAG spokesman David Hicks said publicizing the “extremely, extremely tentative” route attached to a project would cause undue concern among residents unlikely to see it as the early blueprint it’s intended to be.

The specific routes mentioned in the project list aren’t included in the regional transportation plan, but the SANDAG communications department has agreed to locate documents that would help visualize them.

The lack of specificity also makes it difficult to evaluate documents that rely on the SANDAG plan, such as the Cleveland National Forest Foundation’s 50-10 plan, which proposes pushing the transit spending called for in SANDAG’s 40-year outline into the first 10 years. CNFF is among the legal opponents of SANDAG’s plan, and is currently in settlement negotiations while SANDAG ponders an appeal.

You can still expect to see a map or two intended to help visualize some of the projects in SANDAG’s massive planning document.  But the difficulty of pinning down the exact location of a new trolley illustrates that the plan itself is a living document, updated every four years based on changes in the economy, environment, demographics, priorities and political makeup of the region.

I’m Andrew Keatts, a reporter for Voice of San Diego. Please contact me if you’d like at or 619.325.0529 and follow me on Twitter:

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Andrew Keatts

I'm Andrew Keatts, a managing editor for projects and investigations at Voice of San Diego. Please contact me if you'd like at

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