Caltrans hears from public on I-5/ SR 78 interchange

Caltrans hears from public on I-5/ SR 78 interchange
Caltrans Project Developer Levy Le answers questions from the public on interchange possibilities. Photo by Ellen Wright

REGION— Caltrans held a workshop Jan. 29 at the Carlsbad Senior Center to get public feedback on improvements to the interchange at Interstate 5 and state Route 78.

Caltrans is working with the regional public transportation association San Diego Association of Governments, or SANDAG, to overhaul coastal transportation and asked for public input on the I-5/ SR-78 interchange.

The workshop is part of a region-wide long-range plan, which focuses on improving rail, transit and pedestrian infrastructure throughout San Diego.

Allan Kosup, corridor director of SR-76 and the I-5 at Caltrans, said the workshop was held to hear the public’s thoughts and no decisions have been made yet on the interchange update.

“We’re hearing from the community that the way it is now is a problem,” Kosup said.

He said the interchange is outdated and the update comes from a sense of urgency and because funds became available.

“We haven’t done much substantially to this neighborhood at this interchange since the ‘50s so it shouldn’t be surprising the interchange isn’t working really well,” Kosup said.

The traffic signal on the southbound I-5 ramp at Vista Way causes significant backup.

Residents on and around Vista Way also expressed concerns over safety.

A 29-year-old woman was killed in December after a driver ran the stop light on the southbound Vista Way off-ramp and rear-ended her Kia.

Vista Way resident Sharon Newbery said residents’ pleas for a cul-de-sac on Vista Way have fallen on deaf ears.

She and her neighbors have been asking Oceanside City Council for a change to the off-ramp for years and she said it was a concern to her when she purchased her house in 1991.

“Everything remains the same. This is why we say that death did not have to happen,” Newbery said.

She said she thinks about the accident every time she pulls in and out of her driveway.

Staff members at Caltrans are looking at the possibility of closing off Vista Way but the project won’t get underway for a while.

Kosup said construction would not begin until 2030 or 2035 although there are talks to move it up five years.

The Environmental Impact Review will take about four to five years to complete said Kosup.

He said every four years the Regional Transportation Plan gets re-evaluated and it’ll be easier for Caltrans officials to determine the costs once the environmental review is finished.

The possibilities presented to the hundreds in attendance ranged from few changes to a complete overhaul to a more traditional style interchange.

If staffers decide to take out the stoplight and convert the interchange to a traditional clover-style interchange, a new on-ramp at Vista Way would need to be built.

It would also close the Las Flores exit because there would no longer be enough distance to safely navigate to the off-ramp from the interchange.

Another possibility is including direct access ramps for carpool and high occupancy vehicles.

The high attendance wasn’t a surprise to Kosup.

“You could probably have this meeting in any place, Chula Vista, La Mesa, and you would find an issue that brings this passion, which is good. Unfortunately we don’t have enough revenue,” Kosup said.

Caltrans will host another meeting in late spring with a progress update.

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