Workshop details options for I-5 widening

By Dave Schwab

Staff Writer

A workshop on widening Interstate 5 on Tuesday focused more on how traffic along the corridor will be 20 years from now than it is today, especially if nothing is done.

Caltrans and SANDAG hosted the second of five meetings on the proposed widening of a 27-mile stretch of I-5 freeway from La Jolla Village Drive to Oceanside in the Forum Hall at University Town Center.

Caltrans has picked out four ways to go about the I-5 North Coast Corridor HOV/Managed Lanes Project.

The cheapest alternative, aside from doing nothing, calls for eight general lanes on I-5 with four car-pool lanes protected by a striped buffer estimated to cost $3.3 billion. The most expensive alternative is 10 general lanes with four car-pool lanes protected by a concrete barrier, with an estimated $4.4 billion price tag.

Not everyone liked what was said.

Bruce Reznik, executive director of Coastkeeper, the region's largest environmental group working to protect and restore county waterways, said he got a sense of dejà vu listening to transportation officials talking about alternative when it was apparent to him they'd already decided on a preferred alternative: widening an existing superhighway.

"On a more fundamental level, we need to change the way we design (transportation) in San Diego," he said. "We need to think about creating transit options, making land-use decisions for that. They seem to be taking us in the wrong direction for that."

Built in the '60s and '70s, I-5 North Coast Corridor, referred to as the "Gateway to San Diego," was originally built as an eight-lane freeway and has had no improvements done since. The corridor has more than 700,000 vehicle trips daily, a number expected to grow to 1 million by 2030.

On a typical weekday during non-peak hours, Sandag figures show travel time from La Jolla Village Drive to Oceanside is now about 25 minutes. During peak times, it's 35 to 40 minutes. By 2030, those drive-time numbers are projected to grow to 60 and 80 minutes, respectively, if nothing is done to offset traffic congestion.

More than 50 people were in the room — about a quarter of them transportation officials standing by rows of charts with tables piled high with maps and documents detailing a 1,000-page draft environmental report. Officials were chatting with guests and answering their questions.

Reznik attended the I-5 presentation and found it a bit overwhelming — and skewed.

"Coastkeeper hasn't taken a formal position yet on the project," Reznik said.

Noting one official at the hearing was talking about it being a holistic project, Reznik commented, "To say this is a holistic project, when they're adding four or more lanes to a freeway, shows a huge disconnect."

Future meetings will be held on Aug. 17 in Carlsbad, Aug. 24 in Solana Beach and Sept. 9 in Oceanside.

For more information go to

www.KeepSanDiegoMoving.com

  1. Copies of the environmental report are available online or at public libraries.
   
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