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Carlsbad Voters Sift Through Proposed Development’s Traffic Issues

Photo by Alison St John

The site of the "85/15" development project on Interstate 5 by the Agua Hedionda Lagoon in Carlsbad, Sept. 24, 2015.

Traffic is one of the most contentious issues in the campaign for Measure A in Carlsbad. Supporters say a planned shopping center on the Agua Hedionda Lagoon would improve traffic flow, while opponents say it would create gridlock.

Traffic is one of the most contentious issues in the campaign for Measure A in Carlsbad.

Supporters say the proposed shopping and entertainment center on the Agua Hedionda Lagoon would result in improved traffic flow, while opponents say it would create gridlock at neighboring intersections and on Interstate 5.

Carlsbad resident DeAnn Weimer of Citizens for North County said the project would change the culture of the North County coastal community.

"It will turn Carlsbad into something much more like L.A. or Orange County in terms of how we are developed as a community and how we are perceived as a community," she said.

Weimer points out that The Grove, a similar upscale destination in Los Angeles built by the same developer, Rick Caruso, attracts as many people as Disneyland.

Caruso emphasizes that the Carlsbad project was designed with the help of local residents and is focused on their needs. He said opponents are not sticking to the facts.

"They get to make 'em up," he said. "Our traffic study is very clear. There’s 12,000 trips coming into this project. They use the number 35,000. We have no idea where that came from."

The Grove is about 600,000 square feet; the proposed outdoor shopping, dining and entertainment center on the Agua Hedionda Lagoon would be 585,000 square feet. It would be anchored by a Nordstrom and include restaurants and a movie theater.

Photo credit: KOCT Roundtable, Oceanside

DeAnn Weimer of Citizens for North County, Jan. 7, 2016.

Audio

DeAnn Weimer talks about what she believes will be the project's impact on traffic.

“According to Caruso Affiliated’s own proposal, this will bring 12 to 13 million people to Carlsbad,” Weimer said. "And to this very precious reserve. It will bring an incredible traffic issue to Cannon Road and Interstate 5 — a 135 percent increase in traffic from tourists visiting this location."

The Cannon Road exit is often used by visitors to Legoland. Weimer said Caruso’s project is referred to as “a super regional" mall, which would bring visitors from outside Carlsbad and generate an extra 35,000 car trips a day.

The discrepancy is typical of the confusing and contradictory claims flying between the opposing campaigns. In fact, the developer’s proposal to the city includes an estimate of 24,000 to 36,000 extra vehicle trips a day, which covers the trips leaving as well as entering the project.

Caruso is proposing to make a contribution to improving traffic at intersections near the project. He will pay the city more than $9 million in traffic related fees and contribute to installing new technology at traffic signals at some nearby intersections.

"The city has very clearly said once all of our traffic improvements are done — which they will be done by the time we open — traffic gets better," Caruso said. "It can’t be more clear than that. Traffic will be better because of the $9.4 million we’re spending on traffic improvements."

Caruso has secured the Carlsbad Firefighters Association endorsement.

"The firefighters of Carlsbad and the paramedics of Carlsbad would not endorse this project if they thought the traffic was going to get worse and they couldn’t save lives," Caruso said.

Photo by Alison St John

Rick Caruso, Carlsbad, Jan 13th, 2016

Audio

Rick Caruso talks about what he believes will be the project's impact on traffic.

Emergency response times were a major concern at another controversial development proposed for east of Interstate 5, One Paseo, in Carmel Valley. The negotiations to redraw that project currently include proposals for emergency response centers west of the freeway.

At the news conference announcing their endorsement, the Carlsbad firefighters cited the benefit of the estimated $2.6 million in extra annual revenue the development is projected to generate for the city.

An analysis by the Carlsbad city staff of the developer’s nearly 4,000-page proposal concluded that though traffic flow at some city intersections would no longer meet city standards by 2035, that would be due to overall regional growth, not the fault of this project.

"With these improvements, traffic delays would be less than if the plan and the associated improvements did not happen,” the analysis said.

What about traffic on Interstate 5?

The question of how the project will affect I-5 is not addressed in the city staff report.

"Since the city does not operate the freeway system, the AH_SP’s impact on freeway segment and ramp operations is not included in this report,” the report said.

But the project will have an effect on commuters and neighboring cities.

Carlsbad Mayor Matt Hall, who along with the rest of the City Council, supports the project, pointed out that Caltrans will start adding a new car pool lane to the freeway this year, and more express lanes will come within a decade.

Allan Kosup, Caltrans' Interstate 5 Corridor Director, wrote to the city pointing out work at the on- and off-ramps at Cannon Road will not be completed before 2035.

Photo credit: Caruso Affiliated Agua Hedionda South Shore Specific Plan

Developer's estimate of additional daily vehicle trips generated by the proposed 85-15 Plan in Carlsbad.

Kosup also clarified that if Caruso’s project is built, it would preclude the option of building a direct access ramp, or flyover, which was originally recommended for that intersection in Carlsbad.

"The DAR would improve travel and reduce congestion for carpool and FastTrak users from Carlsbad and surrounding cities," Kosup wrote. "It is important to note that the proposed development would limit or preclude the region from implementing a DAR at this location."

Hall and Caruso said the option of a direct access ramp was dropped several years ago.

If Carlsbad voters approve Measure A, Caruso said enough land will be left to allow Caltrans' intersection improvements, but a flyover to ease traffic would no longer be an option.

Voting has already begun for Measure A. The special election is Feb 23.

The name of Caltrans' Interstate 5 Corridor Director has been corrected to Allan Kosup.

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