Freeway project, further litigation on horizon for city

OCEANSIDE — Oceanside will soon see plans for a state Route 78 and Interstate 5 interchange, and go through another round of litigation, as part of SANDAG, to preserve the Regional Transportation Plan.

Councilman Chuck Lowery said he is against building an interchange, and opposes continuing litigation that defends the transportation plan’s environmental impacts.

Caltrans shared plans for the proposed interchange at the South Oceanside Community & Merchants Association meeting on Dec. 2, as an information-only item. The interchange would move traffic more quickly and eliminate the need for a traffic light.

Richard Fox, association member and former city transportation commissioner, said he encourages residents to attend upcoming January workshops (exact dates have not been set) on the interchange and voice their concerns.

“They need to speak up, otherwise things happen and they complain about it,” Fox said.

Fox said general feedback at the meeting was that residents were concerned the interchange would increase traffic on residential streets.

Lowery also attended the meeting, and describes the proposed interchange at Vista Way as a 40- to 50-foot concrete flyover that would have cars on it 24/7.

“The noise will be insane,” Lowery said. “Plans ignore the fact people are living there.”

He said the interchange is intended to support planned freeway expansion. In addition, small bridges currently used by cars, bikes and pedestrians to cross over the freeway would be eliminated.

He added if residents want pedestrian and bike access on the interchange they need to tell Caltrans.

Further transportation news is that SANDAG is pursuing a third lawsuit to defend the Regional Transportation Plan against allegations the plan would have negative environmental impacts.

Lowery represented the city of Oceanside at the SANDAG meeting on Dec. 5, and was the only member who voted against continuing litigation.

He said other city representatives voted yes, due to the county’s reliance on freeways to foster the local economy.

“The general thinking was we have to keep our economy going in San Diego County, and do whatever it takes to keep our economy going,” Lowery said.

He said he voted not to pursue further legal action after two failed court cases, because a third try seemed like throwing away money.

Lowery said adding interchanges and freeway lanes would not solve the local transportation problem, but instead bring more traffic.

“We have to think about the future,” Lowery said. “We need a place our kids and grandkids can live, not just a place to drive our single-occupant cars in.”

He said new solutions need to be explored to keep traffic moving that look beyond 20 years, including rethinking city design and improving mass transit.

“We can’t pave our way out of the population that’s coming,” Lowery said.

A Supreme Court decision on whether the Regional Transportation Plan meets environmental regulations is expected in January or February.

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