The bridge, along with a shuttle to take people to the beach, are two things Pacific Beach Planning Group wants as trolley station amenities.
The Balboa Avenue Trolley Stop is one of nine planned for the Mid-Coast Trolley under development to extend trolley service from Santa Fe Depot downtown to University City. The extension will end at UTC and serve major activity centers including Old Town and UC San Diego. Project construction began in fall 2016 and service is expected to begin in 2021.
The Balboa Avenue station is in a transit-oriented zone. Such zones promote higher housing densities and mass transit including bicycles and other multi-modal uses, as well as relaxing parking requirements for development.
It’s all part of the City of Villages strategy to encourage people to use alternative modes of travel other than the automobile, working toward the City’s Climate Action Plan. That plan calls for eliminating half of all greenhouse gas emissions in the City, and for all electricity to be from renewable sources by 2035.
City planning director Mike Hansen recently told the City Council’s Land Use and Housing Committee that a study will be launched to evaluate the engineering and cost feasibility of a protected bike pathway over the Interstate-5 freeway for the trolley project.
The proposed pedestrian-bike bridge will likely be similar to two existing UC San Diego crossings over the I-5 freeway built at an approximate cost of $20 million each.
PB planners are mostly all in on the bridge.“I think this is a must,” said PBPG president Henish Pulickal. “Having a bridge or skyway is very necessary in this area.”
Added Pulickal, “Any pedestrian death in this area will likely cause the city more in legal damages than a bridge will cost.”
The City’s current alignment for the proposed bridge puts it at Bunker Hill Street. Some PB planners claim the bridge would be better placed at Magnolia Avenue, arguing that street is safer and less well-traveled. They also insist that Magnolia, being a dead-end street, could facilitate creation of a “mobility hub” allowing trolley riders to rent bikes, electric scooters or hook-up with ride-booking apps Uber or Lyft.
Karin Zirk of environmental protection group the Friends of Rose Creek, offered her group’s perspective on the proposed bridge.
“We strongly recommend the alignment be an extension of Magnolia Avenue to allow bicyclists and pedestrians to connect directly to the residential community west of Mission Bay Drive and directing bicyclists onto Mission Bay Drive, which the City’s alignment on Bunker Hill Street would force.”
But not all PB planners agree on where the best location would be for the proposed new pedestrian-bike bridge. At PBPG’s Feb. 27 meeting, board member RJ Kunysz proposed a different alignment for the new bike-pedestrian bridge, not at Magnolia or Bunker Hill.
“Those alignments would negatively affect Rose Creek Bike Path causing too much traffic,” Kunysz said. “Looking at the bigger picture, the pedestrian-bicycle bridge would be better located near Moreno Boulevard and De Anza Cove. That should be the preferred bridge location.”
Kunysz added his preferred bridge alternative would just about be equidistant between the two communities it will serve: Clairemont and Pacific Beach.
Reacting to Kunysz’s proposal, other PBPG board members argued the bridge would be significantly further away from the trolley station than the other two sites, wouldn’t be wide enough to accommodate the elderly or the disabled, and has not been studied as part of the trolley station’s existing environmental document.
PBPG voted down Kunysz’s proposal to shift the future pedestrian-bicycle bridge away from either Bunker Hill Street or Magnolia Avenue to Moreno Boulevard and De Anza.