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CALTRANS Tries To Correct Notorious Traffic Bottleneck

— Politicians and road builders today came to the Nordahl Bridge over Highway 78 to celebrate the opening of the new span, which cost $41 million. It's part of a larger project aimed at improving one of San Diego County's worst traffic bottlenecks.

Lanes were added to the Nordahl Bridge in San Marcos in an effort to improve a part of Highway 78 that's famous for traffic pileups.

Photo by Tom Fudge

San Marcos mayor Jim Desmond marks the re-opening of the Nordahl Bridge, which is seen in the background.

The Nordahl exit has been the source of daily traffic backups because motorists have such a difficult time exiting there. The intersection is near a large shopping area and a new hospital that employs 2,000 people.

So CALTRANS has replaced the bridge and made several other improvements.

"The project provides for more lanes on the bridge itself," said Bill Figge, a planning director for CALTRANS in San Diego. "It also provides additional lanes on the on and off ramps."

Gerald Bracht, the director of the Palomar Medical Center, said traffic mitigation has become even more important with the location of his new hospital. He said he doesn't want ambulances stuck in traffic and unable to bring critically injured people to the ER.

San Marcos Mayor Jim Desmond said he's pleased by the progress.

"It's hopefully going to help alleviate some of the parking lot that we call the Highway 78 here," he said.

The ultimate conclusion of this story is expected to be a widening of Highway 78 itself. During rush hour, the highway is one of San Diego County's most congested freeways. San Diego's Regional Transportation Plan calls for the addition of two carpool lanes to Highway 78 in the next 10 years.

That plan, however, is being challenged in court for putting freeway expansion ahead of mass transit projects.

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