About the Regional Plan

What is a regional plan?

A regional plan is a long-term blueprint for how the San Diego region will grow and how we will get around. It’s a broad-based community effort that addresses many important issues, including using land more wisely, building a more efficient and accessible transportation system, protecting the environment, improving public health, promoting a strong regional economy, better managing our access to energy, incorporating equity into the planning process, addressing pressing needs on tribal lands, and supporting a vibrant international border.

San Diego Forward: The Regional Plan (Regional Plan) merges three planning documents that SANDAG must complete per state and federal laws: the Regional Transportation Plan, Sustainable Communities Strategy, and Regional Comprehensive Plan. The Regional Plan also supports other regional transportation planning and programming efforts, including overseeing which projects are funded under the Regional Transportation Improvement Program and the TransNet program.

Per state and federal law, SANDAG must update the Regional Plan every four years, which is an opportunity for us to reassess how we plan for the region based on new population and economic growth forecasts, laws, and trends in technology.  

Each plan is built upon a Regional Growth Forecast, which lays out how our region will grow over time – how many people will be added, where they will live, and where they will work. Beyond the numbers, the forecast also gives us clues about how our population’s needs and lifestyles may change over time.

Using growth forecasts, public input, and partnerships with local governments and officials, planners envision our future and the improvements needed to better connect us.

What plan is SANDAG currently preparing?

SANDAG is currently preparing San Diego Forward: The 2021 Regional Plan (2021 Regional Plan), which will provide a bold new vision for our region through 2050. Through a new data-driven process, the 2021 Regional Plan is developed to transform the way people and goods move. This transformation aims to provide people with more travel choices, protect the environment, create healthy communities, and stimulate economic growth for the benefit of all San Diegans.

Development of the 2021 Regional Plan is occurring at a pivotal time for our region. While California is on track to meet its 2020 greenhouse gas­ (GHG) reduction targets, accelerated emissions reductions are needed to reach future targets. California has a target for reducing greenhouse gas emissions to 40% below 1990 levels by 2030, with a long-term goal of 80% below 1990 levels by 2050. Since transportation is the largest source of GHG emissions, accounting for 41% of statewide emissions, the State has set specific targets for each region to do its part to reduce emissions. State mandates require SANDAG to develop the 2021 Regional Plan with solutions that reduce GHG emissions from passenger vehicles and light trucks by 19% per capita below 2005 levels by 2035. New state environmental mandates require SANDAG to develop a transportation system for the region that reduces emissions from passenger vehicles and light trucks by 40% per capita below the 1990 levels by 2030.

The state also outlined planning strategies that limit the types of projects that can be used to meet this target. Since SANDAG must primarily reduce emissions by reducing overall miles driven, we need to think differently in terms of how communities and transportation systems are planned, built, and operated.  

Adoption of the proposed final 2021 Regional Plan is anticipated on December 10, 2021. Once adopted, it will become the region’s current long-term plan and used for short-term programming of priority projects under the Regional Transportation Improvement Program.

Learn more about the action plan for the 2021 Regional Plan

How are projects prioritized and implemented?

The Regional Plan includes a proposed “phasing plan” for implementing the various projects, programs, and policies over time. The phasing plan is used to measure the Regional Plan’s achievement of state and federal requirements by certain benchmark years.

Transportation projects in the most-recently adopted Regional Plan are implemented incrementally through the Regional Transportation Improvement Program (RTIP). The RTIP plans for near-term project implementation on a rolling five-year basis. Available funding is allocated to projects through the RTIP. Like the Regional Plan, SANDAG is required by state and federal laws to adopt an RTIP no less than every four years.

The 2019 Federal Regional Transportation Plan (RTP), adopted by the SANDAG Board of Directors on October 9, 2019, is our region’s current regional plan. Amendment No. 08 to the current 2018 RTIP was approved by the SANDAG Board on October 25, 2019, to coincide with approval of the 2019 Federal RTP. When the 2021 Regional Plan is approved, it will become the region’s current regional plan.

Learn more about how projects are funded