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Freeway growth met with concern

OCEANSIDE — The fifth of five open house meetings on I-5 expansion plans was held at Oceanside High School on Sept. 9 and brought plenty of questions and concerns from residents who live along the freeway corridor.
The proposed expansion of I-5 from La Jolla to Oceanside will ease traffic for the 200,000 daily drivers who currently use the road and anticipated traffic growth through 2030.
To ease traffic, freeway expansion is the likely solution. “We don’t have a whole lot of options,” Allan Kosup, Caltrans I-5 corridor director, said.
Oceanside is the smallest footprint in the expansion project. Caltrans proposes an addition of four managed lanes and one alternative lane to the Oceanside stretch of freeway. The managed lanes will be for buses and carpools. Solo drivers will have the option of buying FasTrak access to use the managed lanes.
Numerous residents in attendance said they were surprised to check posted maps and find out that their homes will be significantly impacted by the project. Many said they were not contacted by Caltrans.
“Our home is impacted,” Oceanside resident Zeb Navarro said. “I wish they would do their homework on what exactly are the areas that will be affected.” He also noted a sewer line had been overlooked in the plans. “They had no idea it was there,” Navarro said.
“It’s our second time for eminent domain,” Steven Soto, an Oceanside resident, said. “They moved us twice.” Soto and his family relocated for the Mission Avenue on-ramp project and will need to relocate again for I-5 expansion.
Caltrans will fully relocate 18 homes, take partial acquisition of 26 homes, and claim footing easement of 45 homes.
“I’m a firm believer in property right,” former Councilwoman Sherri Mackin said. “This is the first time some people have heard of it. To say Caltrans is insensitive is an understatement.”
Other resident concerns with the project are noise, maintaining community character and environmental impacts.
Caltrans is working to make the project benefits outweigh the negatives. “We think of it as a big opportunity,” Kosup said.
Wider overpass bridges that have room for bicycles and pedestrians are proposed.
Where encroachment on nature and neighborhoods is necessary, area improvements will be implemented. “We can make the existing lagoons better,” Kosup said. “We can improve the water quality, so birds are more apt to nest there.”
Neighborhood pocket parks are proposed to be added adjacent to the freeway where Caltrans has extra lot space after adding noise walls.
There are concerns from residents who proposed freeway pocket parks might attract vagrants who already live in the brush area by the freeway. “I have some concerns about the pedestrian access walkway around the sound wall and the amount of pedestrians that will walk right past our house to the park,” Jose Navarro, an Oceanside resident, said. “It’s not a good idea.”
The project currently has a draft public works plan and draft environmental impact report, or EIR. Following the final EIR, notices will be sent to homes that will be impacted. Some feel waiting until notices are sent is too late to have a say in the project.
Prevent Los Angeles Gridlock Usurping Environment, or PLAGUE, protested the I-5 expansion outside the meeting room and announced its townhall meeting Sept. 13. “We’re for sustainable solutions,” Noel Spaid, a PLAGUE member, said. “This is still a choice.”
Others feel expansion is inevitable. “We have to have an open mind and see what we can do,” Jim Schroder, an Oceanside resident, said.
The date for construction to begin depends on the speed of plans moving forward and the acquisition of funding. Estimates range from two to 10 years for construction to begin.