ENCINITAS — Local residents gathered at Caltrans’ first public hearing on July 27 to comment on the Draft Environmental Impact Report addressing expansion in the I-5 corridor.
More than 100 people attended the event at the Encinitas Senior Center to learn more about the proposed project, which covers 27 miles from La Jolla to Oceanside. Four alternatives and one “no build” option are up for consideration to be used as the final plan.
The alternatives consistently include four “managed lanes” in the middle of I-5 to be used for carpools, rapid transit and as a toll road for single commuters willing to pay, said Caltrans’ I-5 Corridor Director Allan Kosup.
However, the plans vary between using painted double-line buffers or concrete barriers to separate the managed lanes from the rest. Whether to add another “general purpose” lane to each side is also up for consideration.
“We either add four lanes or six lanes, with the four always being the managed,” Kosup said. “If you’ve driven I-15, it’s that same idea.”
Calrans’ plans also include community enhancement projects, more accessible bike/pedestrian lanes and plans to improve air and water quality in the surrounding areas.
The information was presented in an informal open house style, with a number of poster boards detailing each part of the project stationed around the room. Representatives from Caltrans, SANDAG and other agencies were available to answer any questions.
Residents were encouraged to provide feedback on the proposed alternatives, either in writing or with an available court reporter. Those that did focused on several main themes, including noise, congestion and public transportation.
Vista resident George Crissman noted that adding four extra lanes would be most beneficial if they were available for general use. By limiting the lanes to carpools and rapid transit, or by adding tolls, it would negatively impact the majority of commuters.
“Traffic is really bad and it would be nice if it wasn’t there, but we can’t make it go away — we have to accommodate it,” Crissman said. “By eliminating congestion, we can significantly reduce emissions.”
Longtime Encinitas resident Joan Marchese remembers when I-5 was just a two-lane road. She suggested that Caltrans consider a monorail system over the highway that could address the predicted increase in traffic without adding at least four new lanes.
“We’re going to have more and more people here and there’s going to be more problems,” she said. “If they continue adding lanes, it’s not going to stop.”
Caltrans’ public comment period for the project will remain open through October. Additional meetings will be held in Carlsbad, Oceanside, Solana Beach and San Diego in the coming weeks.
“We’re trying to figure out what will work for the next 40 years,” Kosup said. “We’re going to work with everyone to ultimately select the preferred alternative.”
To learn more about the I-5 corridor expansion options and meeting details, visit www.keepsandiegomoving.org/I-5-intro.html.