By Bianca Kaplanek
SOLANA BEACH — In response to several complaints, a traffic study was conducted in October to analyze current and future delays resulting from the elimination of a right-turn-only lane from westbound Lomas Santa Fe Drive onto Santa Helena.
The Interstate 5 interchange on Lomas Santa Fe is undergoing a $60 million renovation.
Before construction began in late 2007, motorists traveling west in the far right lane on Lomas Santa Fe were required to turn right onto Santa Helena. Earlier this year, Caltrans determined the intersection was unsafe and opened the lane to all traffic, causing long delays for residents trying to get to their homes in Santa Helena neighborhoods.
“The city did not have any role in this one,” Mo Sammack, the city engineer, said.
Once the project is complete — sometime within the next 45 days — motorists will enter the freeway via looping onramps. This will eliminate all left turns onto I-5 and provide an additional freeway entrance for drivers traveling in either direction on Lomas Santa Fe.
Because there is currently only one northbound entrance to I-5, traffic backs up in both directions on Lomas Santa Fe. With the new configuration, eastbound traffic on Lomas Santa Fe — which accounts for about 70 percent of all northbound freeway traffic — will make a right to enter the northbound freeway.
The looping onramps will also be longer, so fewer cars will stack up on Lomas Santa Fe as they wait to enter the freeway. Congestion in the westbound lane that was once designated for right-turns only is expected to improve significantly. Sammack said traffic consultants estimate the maximum delay for motorists who want to turn right onto Santa Helena will be one signal cycle.
“Under these circumstances, this configuration will be better,” City Manager David Ott said. The interchange will continue to be monitored once the project is complete, Ott said.