OCEANSIDE — A Caltrans public meeting was held at South Oceanside Elementary School on Tuesday to let residents know they are being listened to as plans to improve the Interstate 5 and state Route 78 interchange get off the ground.
Arturo Jacobo, Caltrans I-5/78 project supervisor, said he felt good about the meeting, at which an overview of the interchange and related transportation projects were shared. The projects will break ground over the next 30 years.
Jacobo said in phase I of the 30-year transportation overhaul interchange improvements, adding a north and south HOV lane to Interstate 5 from Solana Beach to SR-78, and replacing aged freeway overpasses will be completed as part of the approved SANDAG regional transportation plan.
Public input is being collected on how to design the improvements.
Jacobo said his take away from the night’s meeting was that residents want to be involved. In response the keepsandiegomoving.com website address was shared, as well as dates for the Oceanside SANDAG workshop for May 20, and an interchange workshop in early fall.
Many in attendance said they were left with questions and concerns after the hour-plus Q&A session.
A chief concern is the interchange may be raised 20 to 25 feet, casting a shadow, dust, noise, and pollution on the quiet residential neighborhood nearby.
South Oceanside residents have opposed a raised overpass since the project was introduced in January. Flyers handed out to inform neighbors about that night’s workshop illustrated their concerns with mockups of what a 25-foot high overpass would look like against one and two story beach homes.
“This isn’t over,” former councilwoman Sheri Mackin said. “There are other options.”
Jeffery Chaney, Oceanside resident and engineer, said all options presented in January were flyover ramps.
Jacobo said a range of solutions are being considered to move traffic from Interstate 5 to SR-78 quicker, with fewer traffic concerns, and the smallest footprint.
Because the interchange project is in its initial stages no designs were ready to share. Karen Jewel, a Caltrans I-5/78 project manager, said the engineering staff is in the process of reviewing community feedback and concerns given at the January workshop and tweaking plans.
“We’re brainstorming new engineering ideas to offset the impacts,” Jewel said. “We’re hoping to have something a lot different than you saw in January.”
In the fall five options will be shared with residents along with pros and cons of each, including a no build option.
Jewel said at this point some community suggestions have been determined not to be feasible. In one example, engineering studies found the length of the needed curve for a loop ramp would cause traffic problems in other areas.
“We have to see what is physically possible to do,” Jewel said. “We want something that will actually improve the area.”
During the question and answer session there were demands for more information, including online postings of engineering reports that explain why proposed interchange solutions will not work.
Jacobo said he could post information on the keepsandiegomoving.com website on why some popular community suggestions are not feasible.
Some residents have questioned the transparency of project decision-making, and the working group that meets in closed sessions to give additional input.
Mackin is among those with reservations. She said she is in the process of requesting minutes from the working group meetings.
Richard Fox, a South Oceanside resident and representative on the working group, said contrary to some social media postings no one is trying to pull the wool over anyone’s eyes.
“They’re truly looking for input,” Fox said.
Jacobo said the interchange project is the initial stages and input will continue to be collected throughout the process.