Thursday, July 7, 2011
Caltrans has decided to add four lanes rather than six to expand I-5 through San Diego’s North County. The plan chosen also includes improvements to the Coaster rail line.
Caltrans and the Federal Highway Administration have settled on the I-5 expansion alternative that costs the least, causes less environmental damage and displaces the fewest homes.
The plan calls for two express lanes to be added in each direction, with stripes painted between them and regular lanes. That's only about half the freeway expansion of the most ambitious option on the table, which would have added six lanes with concrete barriers to separate the express lanes.
Project director, Alan Kosup, said the plan will also improve public transport by double tracking the existing rail line down the coast to allow trains to pass each other.
“All in all,” he said, “ you’re looking at about $2.5 billion in rail improvements and $3.5 billion in highway improvements over the next 20-plus years.”
The first phase of the plan won’t widen the highway at all, but will replace the median with express lanes from Encinitas to Oceanside by 2015.
The second phase adds express lanes to the outside of the freeway from La Jolla to Carlsbad.
Kosup said the four express lanes will be for buses and carpools, but they’ll help everyone over the next 40 years.
“When you look at what happened on Interstate-15 last week, where we closed the express lanes and those people had to go back into the general purpose lanes, you recognize how those express lanes help everyone in the corridor." he said." So even if you are a single-occupancy vehicle, you’re going to experience better travel times in the corridor because of the express lanes."
Kosup said the views of the ocean visible from the freeway will not disappear behind sound walls, since they will be made of transparent materials.
He said widening the Coaster rail line to allow trains to pass each other will take decades, but double tracking has already begun. Part of that project involves digging a tunnel for the train under the city of Del Mar.
Years of work to obtain permits and find funding are still ahead, but the plan is now in place.