One of San Diego’s most robust conversations in 2016 was over how we’ll get around the region in the coming decades.

In the end, we decided nothing. The conversation will have no choice but to continue.

Voice of the Year

The driving force behind the debate was Measure A, the sales tax increase proposed by SANDAG that would have generated billions (though likely less than advertised) to spend on highways, transit projects, local roads and open space preservation. That measure was crafted by SANDAG staff, led by Gary Gallegos, and sold by the elected officials who sit on its board, like Supervisor Ron Roberts.

The measure won support from 57 percent of county voters; good enough for SANDAG to claim a mandate for its vision, but not good enough to turn on the spigot and start building new highways and bus lines with all that cash.

Further complicating matters: the composition of the opposition turns the issue into a Rorschach test. People with differing opinions on why the measure was wrong and how it should be improved can each plausibly claim it was their opinion that drove the dissent.

Conservatives in the North County have their answer: The measure cared too much about boosting transit and too little about expanding the freeways they rely on. Liberals in the urban core had theirs: The measure continued to invest in freeways and didn’t fundamentally change transportation in the region and the way it contributes to global warming.

Consider, then, the failure of Measure A as a starting point. The conversation will be back. Given the uncertainty facing SANDAG’s existing revenue, and the projects slated to be built with it, it’s a matter of when, not if, San Diego will be asked to approve a different transportation plan.

This is part of our Voice of the Year package, profiling the people who drove the biggest conversations in San Diego this year.

Andrew Keatts is a former managing editor for projects and investigations at Voice of San Diego.

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