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Construction On I-5 North Coast Corridor Project Starts Next Month

Officials say construction could temporarily worsen traffic

Reported by Kris Arciaga

The project will expand Interstate 5 and the railway line running up San Diego’s North County coastline. It also includes lagoon preservation and 10 miles of bike and pedestrian paths.

Construction begins in December on a major project to expand Interstate 5 and the railway lines running up San Diego’s North County coastline.

It’s been more than 40 years since major improvements were made on this stretch of I-5 from Solana Beach to Carlsbad.

The North Coast Corridor Program, which has been more than a decade in the making, is more than a freeway widening project. It will include improvements to the rail line, preservation work on the coastal lagoons, plus 10 miles of bike and pedestrian paths.

Photo credit: SANDAG

Map of the North Coast Corridor Project, November 2016

Caltrans District Director Lauri Berman said one of the first things people will notice is construction crews beginning work on the new carpool lanes.

“It won’t be long before cranes, bulldozers, concrete barriers and orange cones will become a new part of this landscape,” she said. “It’s temporary, but it may seem like it’s forever. Traffic is going to get worse in the coming months. I’m just trying to set your expectations. So we’re asking for your patience ... and your planning is going to be really important.”

Ron Roberts, chair of the San Diego Association of Governments, the agency that plans transportation in the region, said new road and rail bridges will be built over the San Elijo lagoon. A little more than two miles of rail line will get a second track.

“That investment is very important to us because we will, at some point, be able to double-track 97 percent of the coastal rail line,” Roberts said. “That will allow us to increase the number of trains, the frequency of trains. And it will make taking the train competitive with using the highway.”

California state Sen. Christine Kehoe, who was responsible for the legislation in 2011 calling for investment in rail and public transit as well as roads, attended the launch of the first phase.

“This project represents a lot of hard work,” she said, calling it "a new and innovative way to handle major infrastructure projects.”

Gabriel Buhr of the California Coastal Commission said the project is a model for a new, comprehensive approach to improving roads, rail lines, bike paths and the environment.

“Going forward, this synergistic approach taking place here at San Elijo lagoon will be replicated all the way along the North Coast Corridor,” he said, “with hundreds of acres with enhanced coastal habitat, miles of new bike and pedestrian connections and a host of improvements to the highway and rail infrastructure to encourage alternate modes of transportation.”

SANDAG Executive Director Gary Gallegos said the funding for future expansion of the corridor has yet to be raised. He said the failure of Measure A to get two-thirds of the vote in November is a set back.

“Local funds always help when you can go to the state and federal government and ask for help,” he said.

Gallegos said it could take as many as 30 years to complete the projects in the pipeline, including the I-5 and state Route 78 interchange in Oceanside, which he called ”arguably the worst interchange in San Diego County.“

CALTRANS encourages the public to sign up to receive construction notices via email at KeepSanDiegoMoving.com/BuildNCC

Additionally, the public can follow the project on Twitter at @BuildNCC, or text BuildNCC to 313131 to receive construction text alerts. The construction hotline can be reached at (844) NCC-0050.

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