Advisory Services

Study Eyes Improvements for San Diego Waterfront

San Diego’s expanding waterfront is pushing the limits of its transportation infrastructure, but a study being led by WSP USA is exploring solutions that will improve mobility throughout this important economic corridor.



The Harbor Drive Multimodal Corridor Study is looking at ways to improve movement in and out of the Port of San Diego, which includes the National City Marine Terminal pictured above. It is a key economic hub for the city with commercial, residential and recreational activity.

“The waterfront accommodates a diverse range of activity, including goods movement, employment, recreation areas, and commercial and residential centers,” said Seth Torma, project manager and local transportation planner for WSP, prime consultant for the multimodal project. “To facilitate these complex needs, the corridor offers multiple modal options: road, rail, bicycle, pedestrian and marine vessel.”

The Harbor Drive Multimodal Corridor Study is a multi-faceted planning effort on behalf of the Port of San Diego and its project partners, including the municipalities of San Diego and National City; the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) and port tenants and operators Pasha, General Dynamics NASSCO and Naval Base San Diego.

Harbor Drive is a critical road and a major economic driver for the Port District that stretches along the harbor between San Diego and National City. It provides critical access to the Port’s Tenth Avenue and National City Marine Terminals, private industries and public recreational facilities.

“The Harbor Drive corridor supports the movement of port-related freight, military and industrial traffic, employees along the working waterfront, visitors accessing recreational facilities and residents in adjacent communities,” said Shannon McLeod, WSP deputy project manager and planner in WSP's maritime division.

As prime consultant, WSP is responsible for transportation planning and design – such as intelligent transportation systems (ITS), rail and transit, active transportation, freight and logistics, maritime – travel demand forecasting, traffic modelling and engineering, stakeholder engagement and community outreach.

“With congestion increasing and new port development planned, there is a great need to view these challenges and opportunities holistically, in a way that considers and balances benefits, costs and impacts, to the greatest good of all concerned,” Torma said. “The multi-faceted planning effort will result in a comprehensive plan to address future demand along this highly-active corridor fronting San Diego’s working waterfront.”

Geofencing Technology



WSP is responsible for transportation planning and design for the study of the Harbor Drive corridor, a major economic driver for the San Diego Port District.

Some issues that WSP will examine include significant parking impacts along the corridor, owing to the diametric scheduling of shifts at various port facilities. One of the safety considerations is a concern that vehicles, trucks and pedestrians are illegally cutting across corridor rail and light rail tracks.

Additionally, the residential community of Barrio Logan has experienced increased volumes of freight trucks cutting through local and collector streets to access nearby Interstate 5, rather than using designated truck haul routes, resulting in community safety and air quality impacts.

“WSP is looking at the modes of transportation that serve the corridor, the behavior of the drivers, and how the various uses impact demand and mobility,” Torma said.

The corridor is located within a constrained right-of-way and, as such, solutions may require innovations beyond operational improvements. One potential early action project proposed by WSP has already piqued the interest of Port of San Diego officials, according to Torma.

“Our team is exploring the potential use of geofencing for the monitoring and management of freight truck movement,” he said. “This ITS technology uses GPS [global positioning system], RFID [radio-frequency identification], Wi-Fi or cellular data to define virtual boundaries so that trucks use designated haul routes in and out of port property, as opposed to cutting through adjacent residential neighborhood streets.”

It would be the first ITS application of this type to be used in the San Diego region, he added.

“Geofencing illustrates the type of solution that addresses the needs of port operators, while mitigating the safety and health concerns of the neighboring community,” Torma said. “The technology component could be groundbreaking.”

A Port Road Map

Work on the study began in October, and a final plan will be presented in spring 2019, which will recommend a preferred multimodal transportation strategy, phasing, and a funding and financing plan.


Seth Torma

“The project is in the early stages of the study framework task, in which the team is review existing literature and studies, and consulting with stakeholders to refine the study area, purpose and need statement, and project schedule,” Torma said.

Throughout the study WSP will provide Port of San Diego officials with information that analyzes existing and future activity, demonstrates travel demand and performance by mode, and provides a summary of bottlenecks, needs and opportunities.

“The resulting recommendations will include a series of infrastructure and operational improvements that enhance mobility and safety for transit users, passenger vehicles, maritime vessels, commercial trucks, bicyclists and pedestrians,” he said. “The plan will provide a road map to balance the needs of port operations, neighboring residential communities and recreational uses of the mixed-use waterfront.”

Although led by the San Diego office, the study will be a nationwide team effort that includes WSP experts in planning, transportation, transit, rail, freight and logistics, and maritime capabilities to deliver this project. The study will build upon the firm’s experience in transportation planning, freight and goods movement, maritime and landside transportation and technology.

“It is exciting to work with such a broad range of skilled and talented team members to bring solutions to client and create a comprehensive plan that will address future demand along this highly active corridor fronting San Diego’s working waterfront,” Torma said.


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