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Northbound I-5 carpool lane opens from Solana Beach to Carlsbad

It took many years and big dollars to develop, but now a new 9-mile carpool lane is a reality on the I-5. North County reporter Tania Thorne with reports where it is and what comes next.

Interstate 5 has been notorious for its heavy traffic, but North County commuters are getting some long-awaited relief. A 9-mile northbound carpool lane is now open from Solana Beach to Palomar Airport Road in Carlsbad.

The southbound lane, over the same stretch, will open in a couple of weeks.

"That 9 miles will allow people to travel in a carpool lane that will reduce congestion and reduce emissions and incentivize driving together," said Encinitas mayor Catherine Blakespear.

During a ribbon cutting ceremony on Tuesday, Blakespear called the opening a major milestone for North County.

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"We see with these projects government really delivering for our communities," she said.

Construction of the carpool expansion began late 2016. Gustavo Dallarda with Caltrans said it's part of a bigger project happening along the I-5 corridor.

"This is part of an ongoing $875 million effort that includes widening the freeway for additional HOV lanes But also includes double tracking, bike paths, walking trails, and lagoon restoration," Dallarda said.

The northern part of the carpool lane expansion, from Palomar Airport Road to the 78 freeway, is expected to be open next year. Construction is ongoing and officials ask drivers to watch out for workers and respect the speed limit reductions until construction is complete.