The Coast News Group
Regional officials celebrated the opening of a new southbound HOV lane on June 13 in Carlsbad. Photo by Steve Puterski
Regional officials celebrated the opening of a new southbound HOV lane on June 13 in Carlsbad. Photo by Steve Puterski
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Four miles of new HOV lanes opening along I-5 in North County

REGION — A new four-mile stretch of high-occupancy vehicle lanes will open from Palomar Airport Road in Carlsbad to just north of state Route 78 in Oceanside by the end of June, marking the latest finished product of the broader Build North Coast Corridor program.

The southbound HOV lane opened on June 13, while the northbound lane is expected to open on June 26, according to Alan Kossup, Caltrans’ North County Corridor director. The four-mile, $70 million project began last year and is part of Build NCC, a $1 billion infrastructure plan.

In total, there are 13 miles of carpool lanes from SR 78 to Lomas Santa Fe Drive in Solana Beach.

Build NCC, a partnership between Caltrans and SANDAG that started in 2016, has also completed upgrades to the coastal rail lines, lagoon restoration, bridge replacements and the creation of bike and walking paths.

“The biggest goal is to provide an incentive for high occupant vehicles,” Kossup said. “So, a faster, more reliable trip. What we’re seeing to the south, during the peak period, their trip is about half the time than folks in the general-purpose lanes.”

Local leaders applauded the project, saying it will help ease congestion and traffic flow, reduce emissions and integrate into SANDAG’s regional transportation plan of managed lanes. The HOV project began several years ago from Lomas Santa Fe in Encinitas to Palomar Airport Road in Carlsbad.

Carlsbad Mayor Keith Blackburn said the project is much needed but urged Caltrans and SANDAG officials to find a solution to renovate the I-5/SR 78 interchange, a constant source of congestion and traffic flow issues for decades.

Solana Beach Mayor Lesa Heebner, second vice chairwoman on the SANDAG board, said the project is a “huge” win for North County, with SANDAG contributing more than $141 million in funds through Transnet (sales tax) to help fund Build NCC projects.

Caltrans District 11 Director Gustavo Dallarda said the overall project would add more HOV lanes, complete double-tracking of the rail lines through the LOSSAN (Los Angeles-San Luis Obispo-San Diego) Corridor, erect sound walls in Carlsbad and build a new bridge crossing Batiquitos Lagoon, among other projects.

“This multi-modal approach helps us plan for the future, a future that is not car-centric,” Dallarda said. “This is a collaborative system of safe transportation systems.”