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San Diego Freeway Traffic Nears Pre-Pandemic Levels

Freeway traffic on interstate 8 on May 21, 2012
Erik Anderson
Freeway traffic on interstate 8 on May 21, 2012

Southern California freeway congestion has nearly returned to pre-pandemic levels, a sign that the COVID-19 pandemic is loosening its grip on the region.

San Diego Freeway Traffic Nears Pre-Pandemic Levels
Listen to this story by Erik Anderson.

The evidence is not hard to find.

San Diego County’s freeways may not be jammed up in the middle of the day, but during rush hour, the multiple lane highways are increasingly packed with cars and trucks.

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Think of it as the return of the old days.

Caltrans District 11 Director Gustavo Dallarda there are telltale signs things are returning to normal.

“A lot of the ramp meters started activating automatically for the morning and the afternoon commute and the ramp meters activate when the freeway volumes start increasing and congestion starts building up,” Dallarda said. “So, you will see most of the days the ramp meters are on in the morning and afternoon and that’s because traffic is getting bad like it used to be.”

Dallarda says the traffic shows that the economy is getting back on track and more people are returning to their offices.

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“A year ago was when we saw some of our lowest volumes in history,” Dallarda said. “I’ve been here for 30 years and I have never seen anything like that. Most of our freeways were empty. Most of our highways were empty.”

Traffic volumes are close to pre-pandemic levels on most of the region’s major highways.

“I think with more of the economy reopening, we’re almost back to where we were in 2019 when it comes to traffic volumes,” Dallarda said.