If I had my way, we’d fly over Interstate 5 from Oceanside to La Jolla and back in comfy trains that cruise in silence, levitated, along powerful magnetic fields. For if we are to be spending up to $4.5 billion to avert the gridlock planners predict will seize the freeway by the year 2030, is it such a great solution to be attracting more and more cars to the 5 on the promise that the added lanes will expedite travel? When those lanes fill up, what gets paved next?
Freeway widening comment season has arrived in North County in earnest. Get out your keyboards, though, because the state transportation department has made it clear the open airing of public opinion is not being invited at the official sessions being held, including the one set for Aug. 24 at Skyline Elementary School in Solana Beach. No, the indications from Caltrans are that we’ll be told there what officials think we ought to know.
As if to make up for this absence of a robust discussion of public concerns at these official meetings, we are getting double the time to file written reactions to the I-5 plans. Have a blast wading through the 1,000 pages that make up the opaque maze otherwise known as the draft environmental impact statement. The deadline for sending in comments is Oct. 7.
Also as if to fill the vacuum left by the official parleys, groups with serious questions about the wisdom of wholesale paving were to hold a town meeting in Solana Beach on Aug. 19.
Released in June, the environmental impact statement puts forth scenarios that could add as many as six lanes to the freeway — some for car pools, buses and toll-paying soloists — along a 27-mile stretch from Harbor Drive on the north side of Oceanside to La Jolla Village Drive. The project would run through six cities and require the construction of 40 bridges and overpasses. Walls aimed at cutting down the noise level would be built alongside more than 1,500 homes, including apartment complexes.
Some opponents say they fear that someday they’ll go out into the yard and look up, only to see the underside of an overpass instead of the sky. This may be an overreaction, but what seems soft-pedaled in the official report is that some people could have no yards to look up from, for they’ll be losing their homes altogether. Caltrans (and the two other project sponsors, the San Diego Association of Governments and the Federal Highway Administration) call these losses “displacements.”
One of the four plans — the so-called 10+4 with Barrier at an estimated cost of $4.3 billion — includes a feature that puts a 10-foot-high concrete barrier between carpool lanes and general-purpose ones from just north of Del Mar Heights Road to just south of the 78. Praise be the plan, too, for a lane designated solely for buses.
Anyway, this alternative would wipe out six condominiums in the Eden Gardens community of Solana Beach; two single-family residences in Old Encinitas; 13 single-family and 31 multi-family units in Oceanside; and a triplex as well as an entire 47-unit apartment complex north of the Agua Hedionda Lagoon next to the freeway in Carlsbad.
“There may be some difficulty finding adequate relocation resources,” for the residents of that complex, the report notes, and “it is unlikely that current residents would be able to relocate in Carlsbad” and afford the rent.
We could do nothing at all, which is actually one of the four alternatives, the so-called no-build. But sign me up with those who say let’s not disrupt cohesive communities or squander an opportunity to exercise our imagination and build a transportation infrastructure not so dependent
on pavement. Call me a dreamer, but is anyone else aboard for a magic carpet train ride down the middle of the 5 from Oceanside to Santa Fe Station, the Coaster notwithstanding?
Filed Under: Not That You Asked