An update on planned expansion for HOV lanes along Interstate 5 between La Jolla and Oceanside ...http://www.signonsandiego.com/news/2011/jul/06/caltrans-picks-express-lanes-only-option-i-5/
Caltrans picks express-lanes-only option for I-5
By Robert J. Hawkins
Originally published 5:17 p.m., July 6, 2011, updated 6:08 p.m., July 6, 2011
Caltrans has made its choice for the expansion of 27 miles of Interstate 5 through North County, picking the least intrusive of the four possible options: the $3.5-billion addition of four carpool-express lanes (two in each direction), separated only by paint striping.
The call comes after a planning process that really began in 2004 and reached a crescendo last year with a series of workshops and hearings on the four alternatives -- the largest of which required the addition of six lanes, with concrete barriers separating express and common lanes.
Residents and advocates for public transportation and environment presented views that ranged from “go big” to don’t build at all. Caltrans officials sifted through as many as 5,000 comments submitted on the project, a spokesman said.
At one point, state Senator Christine Kehoe submitted a bill, SB-468 which required North County coastal mass transit projects be built out before highway construction could begin. The bill is still alive but has morphed into an endorsement of the option picked by Caltrans today.
A spokeswoman for Kehoe said the senator is "pleased" by the choice made by Caltrans.
While hardly the end of the review process, “this is a good day for the project,” said regional Caltrans director Laurie Berman on Wednesday.
If all goes according to schedule, the first phase of the four-phase, 40-year project, could begin in 2013, according to Allan Kosup, Caltrans’ I-5 corridor director.
The highway expansion is part of a larger $6 billion transportation project that includes double-tracking of the coastal railroad corridor; lagoon restoration and lengthening of bridges over lagoons; and the addition of 23 miles of bike and pedestrian routes.
Before beginning Phase 1, Caltrans, the Federal Highway Administration and its partners must develop what is called a Public Works Plan -- a document that will detail the actual work, impacts and time table.
Residents looking for the "devil in the details" will be paying close attention to this document, which after public hearings and apdoption , goes to the state Coastal Commission for approval. It serves essentially as a work permit from the coast panel, good for the 40 years of the project.
Phase 1 of the expansion would add one internal express lane in each direction, between Manchester Avenue to the south and State Route 78 in Oceanside. No widening of the highway in the first 10 years is required.
Originally the plan called for four dedicated "flyover" ramps that would feed vehicles directly into the express lanes. These have been reduced to two and one of them, moved slightly north of Manchester Avenue, actually comes in under the freeway to feed traffic to the express lanes.
The other, at Voight Drive near UCSD is being redesigned for a much lower profile. Two dedicated ramps -- at Cannon in Carlsbad and another in Oceanside have been dropped, said Kossup.
No ocean views will be lost, the planners say. If sound barriers in the back of homes block views, they will be built with clear material, according ot plans.
Also as part of Phase 1, eight miles of double-tracking will be added to the rail corridor durng the next five years, said Kossup.
Phase 2, adds two express lanes from La Jolla to Palomar Road. These lanes will be added to the outside edges of of the freeway.
Phase 3 will complete the four express lanes all the way to the San Luis Rey River. It is during this phase that the expansion will push through the densest residential communities.
In total, as many as 60 properties, mostly residential, will have to be taken to enable the highway expansion. As engineers refine the plans, that number could drop, said Kossup.
Phase 4 will consist mostly of building a train tunnel underneath Del Mar, the only piece of the project not funded through 2035..
The entire 40-year project -- highway, rail, pedestrian-bike trails and lagoon restoration is estimated to cost $6 billion.
Kosup said the public hearings and Kehoe bill have clearly influenced their choice. One of the bigger Kehoe triumphs, if her bill is passed, requires Caltrans to build train and vehicle bridges concurrently over the lagoons, to minimize damages.
Also, revenue from FasTrak users in express lanes will be channeled into public transit projects. And the view-blocking "flyover" ramps to express lanes have been reduced to two with low profiles.