The Coast News Group
Construction crews work on Interstate 5 adding two HOV lanes as part of the first phase of a $1 billion project in the Build North Coast Corridor Program. Photo by Steve Puterski

Caltrans, SANDAG making headway on Build NCC projects

CARLSBAD — The robust $1 billion Build North Coast Corridor Program is well underway with numerous large-scale projects already completed.

Currently, phase one is also undergoing a massive project along Interstate 5 adding HOV lanes from Manchester Avenue in Encinitas to Palomar Airport Road in Carlsbad. Additionally, the project has included other projects such restoration to the San Elijo and Batiquitos lagoons, replacing a wooden trestle (bridge) at San Elijo Lagoon and new transit and mobility projects, said Allen Kosup of Caltrans, who presented an update to the City Council on July 23.

The plan is a joint venture with Caltrans and the San Diego Association of Governments.

The goal, he said, was to rethink the entire corridor from La Jolla Village to Oceanside regarding arterials, freeways, pedestrians, bikes and lagoons.

“It is an extremely special corridor for many reasons,” Kosup said. “One any given day, we move about 700,000 people through that corridor. It’s a really important corridor.”

Re-examining the corridor, he said, is critical to the infrastructure of the region, noting the county’s population, housing and jobs have triple since 1960. He said a comprehensive approach is required to ensure better movement from vehicles to freight.

One goal has been to double track the railroads as much of it is currently single tracked, Kosup said. However, the San Elijo Lagoon and South Carlsbad areas, among others, have been double tracked, along with removing and replacing several wooden trestles. Also, Poinsettia Station double tracking and station upgrades will be completed in the next 12 months.

Bike and pedestrian pathways are also a priority. The Encinitas Rail Trail was recently completed and is “packed,” Kosup said.

As for I-5, paving will begin next week, along with the installation of sound walls in the Manchester and Poinsettia areas, and is expected to be completed in 2021. One concern, he said, is the speed of motorists through construction zones, which is averaging at 70 mph instead of the posted 55 mph.

Kosup said the continuation of the I-5 HOV lanes from Palomar Airport Road to State Route 78 will begin late this year or early next year.

“The challenge with it is, that the project is funded with state funding,” Kosup said. “The funding is out a couple years. The money is there, it’s just not available today. It’s a cash flow issue. We are working hard with the state to get that funding.”

Mayor Matt Hall and Councilwoman Barbara Hamilton said they had concerns about the work up to SR 78 and how it would affect Carlsbad Village Drive.

Hall said the stoplight without mitigation would move the impact to Carlsbad Village Drive. Hamilton raised concerns about the interchange and how it would impact Las Flores Drive and traffic along I-5.

“All the interchanges need to be updated,” Hall said. “It’s not just the I-5 and the one lane widening, it’s really about how the whole system works.”

Regarding the San Elijo Lagoon, Kosup said dredging has made a “tremendous” difference in the life of the lagoon.

Over the life of the project, which has several phases, it will cost about $6 billion, Kosup said.

So far, $901 million in projects are under construction, $508 million have been completed with $590 million and $273 million in design or shovel ready, respectively, he said.

“We will not be able to build it all in one fell swoop,” he added. “It’s a 40-year plan. The good thing … is transportation is changing so quickly.”

Photo Caption: Construction crews work on Interstate 5 adding two HOV lanes as part of the first phase of a $1 billion project in the Build North Coast Corridor Program. Photo by Steve Puterski