REGION — North County cities along the Interstate 5 corridor are on board with improvements planned over the next 40 years.
The Coastal Commission gave the go-ahead on Aug. 13 to the public works plan submitted by Caltrans and SANDAG for 27 miles of corridor improvements between La Jolla and Oceanside.
“We’re supportive of it, all North County coastal is,” Oceanside Mayor Jim Wood said.
Corridor improvements will be made to I-5, rail lines and bicycle lanes.
Wood said improvements are sorely needed. The interstate faces major traffic congestion even in off-peak hours, and double tracking rail lines is essential to make railroad transportation more efficient.
The corridor plan will be phased in multiple projects and paid for by TransNet half-cent on the dollar sales tax funds.
Phase I improvements will cost $600 million and begin in 18 months.
They include adding a 27-mile carpool lane to I-5 in each direction from Solana Beach to state Route 78.
Allan Kosup, Caltrans I-5 corridor director, said the extended carpool lane would encourage carpool and bus traffic and accommodate the free flow of traffic.
Additionally, sections of rail line will be double tracked.
Another improvement will be the installation of a 7-mile Class 1 bike lane at the I-5/Genesee Avenue Interchange. The bicycle and pedestrian lane will be put in on the west side of I-5 from Voigt Drive to Roselle Street. Currently bicyclists drive along the shoulder of the freeway on that stretch of the corridor.
Phase I improvements include dozens of projects that are expected to be finished by 2018.
Future corridor improvements will add a second carpool lane to I-5, restore lagoon habitats and replace railroad trestles with tunnels.
Kosup said the 40-year timeline for the corridor project does not mean continuous work will be going on for four decades. There may be years of no corridor work between phased-in improvements.
He said it was significant that all cities supported the plan at the Coastal Commission meeting.
“A unanimous decision is very rare in a project this size,” Kosup said.
The commission’s decision came after a long review process that included all stakeholders.
Kosup added there are a handful of county residents who continue to push for more public transit and less freeway. Overall the project is balanced to serve vehicles, rail transportation and bicycles.
Final engineering work on the project remains to be done. SANDAG will continue to work closely with cities as the project moves forward.
For more information and maps of the project, go to www.keepsandiegomoving.com.