Council takes issue with I-5 expansion plans

CARLSBAD — City staff reported Nov. 16 that they have found Caltrans’ proposed I-5 widening project plans to contain insufficient details and lacking in clarity on its impact to Carlsbad if the project moves forward.
Staff’s statement on the project’s shortcomings came after months spent reviewing the detailed Draft Environmental Impact Report and Study, or EIR/EIS. They presented the analysis to City Council members at a workshop Nov. 16.
Senior Planner Scott Donnell and other staff members highlighted “significant concerns” in the proposal, including a lack of transparency on the project’s impact to Carlsbad.
“The analysis of impacts to Carlsbad is incomplete and the information provided is inadequate,” Donnell said. “The EIR needs to be revised to clarify that.”
Proposed impacts include the replacement of bridges and under crossings; additional High Occupancy Vehicle lanes; sound wall barriers; and the addition of Direct Access Ramps, Donnell said.
Staff cited concerns with these plans, like the projected loss of lagoon and farmland along I-5 and an increase in noise and pollution that has not been slated for mitigation by sound walls in some areas.
Donnell also noted that Caltrans conducted an “inadequate analysis of our city policies,” while also neglecting the coastal policy and city noise regulations.
In addition to the widening construction, Caltrans has designated $50 million for “community enhancement projects” for property within the project’s footprint.
They include trail connections at various points in Carlsbad, as well as beautification of the La Costa Park and Ride area.
“It’s an attempt by Caltrans to mitigate some of the other impacts of the project,” Director of Transportation Skip Hammann said.
Hammann noted that the earmarked budget for improvement projects is more than necessary to complete them, and Caltrans is open to other project ideas from city staff.
Hammann discussed several projects suggested by staff members, including a realignment of Carlsbad Boulevard and Palomar Airport Road; Carlsbad Village Drive gateway improvements; and the expansion of Chestnut Avenue, linking Holiday Park with Pine Avenue Park.
Hammann provided a rough estimate of an additional $50 million to complete staff’s recommended projects.
“We can ask for these things, but how likely is it that Caltrans will consider them, we don’t know,” Hammann said.
Caltrans will consider Carlsbad staff’s comments and suggestions, as well as other public input, before releasing their preferred widening alternative and a final EIR/EIS. They are expected to release a decision sometime next year.
San Diego County residents are encouraged to comment on the project by the Nov. 22 deadline. Comments can be made online at www.keepsandiegomoving.com/I-5-Corridor/I-5-intro.aspx.

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