COAST CITIES — Two weeks before a Nov. 22 deadline to comment on a proposal to expand Interstate 5, two public hearings were held to address the project. Although the Nov. 8 events were different, the message was the same.
Despite claims from the California Department of Transportation, lead agency for the project, few in North County believe widening the freeway will relieve congestion. They also doubt the project will enable the county to comply with state mandates to decrease greenhouse gas emissions.
In July, Caltrans released a 10,000-page draft environmental impact report for public review. Since then Caltrans has held a series of informational workshops to inform the public about the project.
The majority of residents who attended those presentations did not support the expansion.
State Sen. Christine Kehoe, D-San Diego, said she requested the Nov. 8 informal hearing, held at Solana Beach Presbyterian Church, to allow the agencies involved with the project to speak to the public.
Also on hand were Senate Transportation and Housing Committee Chairman Alan Lowenthal, D-Long Beach, representatives from Caltrans and the San Diego Association of Governments and Mary Nichols, chairwoman of the California Air Resources Board.
Kehoe said she would include public input from the meeting in her letter responding to the EIR.
Caltrans is proposing to widen 27 miles of I-5 from La Jolla to Oceanside. The project is estimated to cost between $3.3 billion and $4.5 billion depending on the option selected. Many speakers said the money would be better spent on mass transit.
Alternatives include adding up to four managed lanes for carpools, buses and single-occupancy vehicles willing to pay for use. Another option features two additional general purpose lanes. There is also a no-build option, which many residents said was dismissed too quickly.
About four of the approximately two dozen speakers supported the project, saying it would bring much-needed jobs to the area.
That night, Del Mar City Council authorized its 18-page comment letter on the EIR.
The report, the letter states, fails to provide sufficient or effective alternatives or adequately address the project’s main purpose and impacts to the San Dieguito Lagoon and local feeder roads.
City officials also said the no-build alternative is dismissed prematurely and truck traffic was not sufficiently considered.