The Coast News Group
Carlsbad City Hall. Photo by Steve Puterski
Carlsbad City Hall. Photo by Steve Puterski

Chestnut Avenue underpass improvements get green light

CARLSBAD — Over the past several years, the city and North County have seen their share of improvement projects courtesy the Build North Coast Corridor program.

Two of the projects include adding two express lanes from Lomas Santa Fe, starting in Encinitas, to the Interstate 5 and State Route 78 intersection, and adding a second rail track at the Poinsettia Station.

In total, the Build NCC program, which spans down the coastal cities, is a $1.1 billion, 40-year project.

During the Carlsbad City Council’s Oct. 15 meeting, Allan Kosup of Caltrans, which along with the San Diego Association of Governments is overseeing the program, reported to the council two smaller enhancements.

Those are upgrades to the I-5 underpasses at Carlsbad Village Drive and Chestnut Avenue. The City Council approved to move forward with the Chestnut Avenue improvements.

“As long as we’re out there building the freeway or railroad, what could we easily include into the regional facility that would enhance the community?” Kosup asked. “Complete streets and active transportation was one of the big things we heard from all the cities.”

Build NCC began in 2017 and is expected to be finished in 2022. The addition of a double track is to improve the efficiency and reliability of train service along the coast across two lagoons.

Phase one will also restore a coastal lagoon and hundreds of acres of sensitive habitat, improve the interchanges and overpasses at various locations, build sound walls on private properties and add nearly 30 miles of bicycle and pedestrian paths in Encinitas and Carlsbad, according to the staff report.

As for the I-5 widening, most overcrossings and undercrossings in the area will need to be replaced or widened. Construction offers an opportunity to upgrade and reconfigure local interchanges to improve pedestrian and bicycle circulation.

While much of the program is in phase 1, Kosup said due to tensions and financial limitations, Caltrans is moving the Chestnut Avenue enhancements up to ensure its completion.

He said 20 feet will be added to the underpass, which allows for bike lanes, an enhanced sidewalk, lightning and better access under the Americans with Disability Act. In addition, the entities will work in conjunction with the city on public art projects.

“We’ll end up with one lane in each direction full standard, a 5-foot bike lane, keep the 11-foot parking buffer and end up with 10-foot sidewalks on both sides,” Kosup added. “I think it’s a big upgrade connecting the east and west communities.”

As for Carlsbad Village Drive, the cost is “significantly” more and includes more right of way. Kosup said any improvements now would be thrown away due to the upcoming improvements in phase two.

Still, the proposed enhancements would widen existing sidewalks to 10 feet and construct new bike lanes on each side of the roadway. A 3-foot striped buffer would separate the bike lanes from traffic. These changes would provide a safer way for pedestrians and bicyclists to cross the highway to get to the Carlsbad Village Transit Center and the beach, according to the staff report.

Councilwoman Cori Schumacher said the extra lighting will be a benefit as well as the added mobility component with the bike lanes. Councilman Keith Blackburn added the area has been neglected, so the enhancements are much needed.