Pushed to pay closer attention to impacts on coastal wetlands and to provide more public transit options, CALTRANS has made some changes to the Draft Environmental Impact Report for its proposed widening of I-5 as it crosses six waterways from La Jolla Village Drive to Oceanside.
Based on hydraulic studies, some bridges would be lengthened to enhance lagoon functioning; the widening of San Dieguito Bridge would be reduced to infringe less on the adjacent Coast to Crest trail, and bikeways would be added along the freeway right of way. At Del Mar, the bikeway would be suspended on the west side of the bridge over the San Dieguito River.
“The Project (still) relies too heavily on widening of I-5 as a means to improve mobility,” Del Mar’s response to the new information reads. “As an example (there is) little information or discussion of funding commitments for installation of a rail platform to serve the Del Mar Fairgrounds site where activities generate tremendous peak impacts on transportation in the North Coast Corridor.”
The Torrey Pines Community Planning Board which represents Del Mar Heights and Del Mar Terrace asks: “How does the North Coast Bikeway support the (community’s) needs for mass transit?” “Are there surveys or research documents that provide a basis for the number of drivers and passengers who will bike to work rather than drive?”
Both jurisdictions and the San Dieguito River Park Joint Powers Authority (JPA) claim the Project also still fails to adequately minimize or mitigate for negative impacts on the River Valley’s public open space and recreational experience at the San Dieguito River bridge crossing.
The now “locally preferred alternative” (8+4 with buffer) would expand the freeway 100 feet to create two High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV)/ Managed lanes in both the north and south bound directions, separated by a buffer from the existing four general purpose lanes in each direction. Currently there is only one HOV lane in each direction.
Pending release of a Final Environment Report in early 2013 and its approval, construction is planned to begin in 2014 for a proposed cost of 3.3 billion in 2010 dollars. Construction of the section from the I-5/805 merge to Palomar Airport Rd. is expected to begin in 2020. In the meantime, local voices are questioning the use of public funds for freeway widening rather than more mass transit options, and are suggesting that the No Build Alternative may be the better choice unless additional changes are proposed.
Video by Tom Lawrence, son of Sandpiper editor Virginia Lawrence