05.16.2021 | News Release
On Friday, the SANDAG Board of Directors allocated the remaining funds needed to incorporate the installation of fiber to support the planned Caltrans State Route 67 (SR 67) Pavement Rehabilitation project . SANDAG, Caltrans, and the County of San Diego have partnered in recent weeks to identify $7 million in funding needed for the project, which will fill a critical gap in the region’s fiber network.
“There are currently large gaps in our region’s fiber network– especially in rural areas,” said SANDAG Executive Director Hasan Ikhrata. “Fiber provides the backbone for broadband, and I am extremely proud of the quick execution led by SANDAG, Caltrans, and the County. This regional partnership to push for equitable access for all is an example of the strength of our region when we work together.”
This collaborative effort will enable the expansion of reliable and affordable broadband for the communities along the SR 67 corridor. In addition to increasing access to broadband, the project will also establish the necessary infrastructure to implement transportation operation and safety improvements along this corridor in the future, by providing communication links to emergency management centers.
Last week, the San Diego County Board of Supervisors allocated $1.4 million toward this effort.
“225,000 people live within five miles of this project. 29% are low-income households, 38% are minorities, over 15% are seniors and 22% are under 18 years old,” said San Diego County Supervisor Joel Anderson. “By partnering with Caltrans and SANDAG, the County has an opportunity to help bridge the digital divide by extending the fiber optic network in Lakeside and Ramona to reach these important populations. The potential this work has in expanding and improving internet service in our rural communities, including to tribal lands, is high and I appreciate the efforts of all our partners on this important project.”
“This is equity in action,” said San Diego County Supervisor Terra Lawson-Remer. “Projects like this are part of how we are going to expand opportunity and ensure that as our region moves forward, we move forward together.”
The California Transportation Commission voted unanimously on May 12 to allocate the remaining $4.75 million needed to complete the project.
“[This] is what we should be doing. It aligns with [Caltrans’] Dig Once policy,” said California Transportation Commissioner Christine Kehoe. “It’s bringing broadband and reducing the digital divide in an area that is partially rural and underserved in fiber optics infrastructure and it also is another way to enhance our connected cars and smart highways. It is a way to the future.”
“Collaboration and funding projects that make our transportation network more equitable is a priority for Caltrans,“ said Caltrans Corridor Director Ross Cather. “Our pavement rehabilitation project is the first in California to incorporate fiber installation aligning with California’s “Dig Once” policy. The policy encourages the deployment of broadband along strategic corridors.”
Caltrans and the County of San Diego are both participants on the SANDAG Regional Digital Divide Taskforce, which was formed earlier this year by the SANDAG Board of Directors. The Taskforce brings together a wide range of stakeholders involved in various aspects of the digital divide - or the growing gap between those who do and do not have access to broadband and an adequate device for connecting to the internet. The Taskforce is working collaboratively to develop a Regional Digital Equity Strategy and Action Plan that prepares the region to accelerate broadband access and adoption.
SANDAG and Caltrans will issue a Request for Information to gauge interest among internet service providers in partnering on this project. Work is anticipated to begin in August and be complete in November 2021.
For media inquiries, please contact Stacy Garcia at 619.699.1950 or PIO@sandag.org