Dennis E. Ridz, Chair Torrey Pines Community Planning Board (TPCPB);
The California Depart of Transportation –District 11 (Caltrans) issued its Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR) for the Interstate-5 North Coast Corridor Project (I-5 NCC) on July 2, 2010. With over 5,000 public and municipal responses to this DEIR by the November 22, 2010 deadline, Caltrans is still working on answering all the environmental issues raised during this response period. In July 2011, Caltrans selected its preferred alternative from the various alternatives included in the I-5 NCC and will re-circulate a revised DEIR in the summer of 2012.
The proposed I-5 North Coast Corridor Project provides one No Build alternative and four build alternatives along a 27-miles section of I-5, beginning at La Jolla Village Drive in San Diego and ending at Harbor Boulevard in the City of Oceanside at post mile 28.4/55.4. The 10+4 with Barrier Alternative is estimated to cost $4.3 billion while the least costly, Build Alternative, 8+4 with Buffer, is estimated to cost $3.3 billion.
The so-called No Build Alternative actually includes a number of construction projects including, interchange/operations/adjacent projects that would move forward under separate environmental documents. The I-5/SR-56 Interchange Improvements include the alternative, dubbed the “70 foot Flyover,” adjacent to Pointe Del Mar and Portofino Circle. This project has been the subject of numerous Caltrans and Torrey Pines Community meetings and included a 3-d animation of the entire project including the 40 feet high retaining wall.
Caltrans selected the Build Alternative, 8+4 with Buffer for the I-5 section between Carmel Valley Road and Via de La Valle. Currently, this section of I-5 is at 8+2+2. Eight (8) General Purpose Lanes, two (2) HOV lanes, and two (2) Auxiliary lanes. The TPCPB asked Mr. Allan Kosup, Director of the I-5 & SR-76 Corridor, to please define what the 8+4 selection would look like. He told us that the two existing North and South bound HOV lanes would be converted to Express lanes with the addition of one more Express lane on each side of I-5. The existing auxiliary lanes will remain and in the northbound direction an auxiliary lane will be added from the northbound bypass. So the 8+4 with Buffer, will actually be 8+4+3. Mr. Kosup cautioned that this does not include the I-5/SR-56 Connector project which is planned for release for public comment in the spring of 2012.
The I-5/SR-56 Connector project has several alternatives and would add at least two more lanes on each side of I-5. The Direct Access Road (DAR) into the Del Mar Fairgrounds is not included in the I-5 NCC and may require additional lanes to support the DARs. The City of Del Mar is in discussions with SANDAG and Caltrans regarding the possible build out of the DAR’s into the Fairgrounds as a way to relieve traffic congestion during events like the County Fair and Del Mar Racing season.
The TPCPB raised the issue of highway width and expansion of the bridge over the San Dieguito River Valley with Mr. Arturo Jacobo, I-5 Project Manager. The response was that “the exact dimension of the freeway widening will be determined in the design phase.” That is certainly a fair statement but does not answer the question at this point in time. The DEIR I-5 NCC indicated that the bridge would be widened by 39 feet on both sides of the river. The impact of a possible DAR into the Fairgrounds might require an even larger footprint and expansion of the bridge. I wish to stress that the Caltrans officials have tried to answer all are questions as best as they can and we appreciate their professionalism and candor.
This has been only a short briefing on the I-5 NCC project which will shape our communities and impact our rich environmentally sensitive resources for decades to come. If you wish to know more contact the Sandpiper editors and request follow-up articles.