Highway projects slowly moving forward

Highway projects slowly moving forward
Caltrans and SANDAG are planning to add a carpool lane between Lomas Santa Fe and state Route 78 in each direction starting next fall. Commuters often get stuck in traffic between Carlsbad and Solana Beach during rush hour. Photo by Ellen Wright

REGION — In an effort to improve transportation throughout the region, the San Diego Association of Governments, or SANDAG, has partnered with Caltrans and many other regional groups to overhaul the freeways, railroads, bike lanes and pedestrian access points at a cost of $6 billion.

The North Coast Corridor Program, as the plan is called, is a long-range plan that will stretch into the next decades.

On Tuesday, the Carlsbad City Council received an update on the upcoming changes to Interstate 5 and state Route 78.

First, the freeway will be widened at the San Elijo Lagoon.

Alan Kossup corridor director of Route 76 and the I-5 at Caltrans said the most difficult part of the I-5 widening would be replacing the bridges at the San Elijo and Batiquitos lagoons, which will begin next spring.

“The San Elijo bridge will take us upwards of four years to construct in order to try and keep 270,000 people moving down the corridor and not bring them all to a halt,” Kossup said.

At the Batiquitos Lagoon, staff is still unsure whether the bridge will be removed or replaced.

It can be widened by re-striping the lanes, which will be the first step.

“That buys us some time,” Kossup said.

The ultimate goal will be to replace the bridge at the same time as the Route 78 interchange updates are constructed, depending on consensus between officials from the Batiquitos Lagoon and Caltrans.

A park and ride will also be added at Manchester Avenue.

The next phase of the I-5 widening will begin next fall and that will add a carpool lane in both directions between Lomas Santa Fe and Route 78.

Another key element that will begin next year is double tracking the railroads from Ponto to La Costa. The railroad bridge on the Batiquitos Lagoon will be replaced.

Kossup said construction on the railroad tracks will start next fall.

Council also received an update on the Route 78 interchange.

First, Caltrans needs an Enivronmental Impact Review, which can take up to five years.

“A project of this complexity is going to take four to five years for the final environmental document for a preferred alternative,” Kossup said.

Kossup said there are a few major problems along Route 78, one being the signal near Vista Way where the westbound freeway ends.

“That’s sort of an unconventional ending to a freeway,” Kossup said.

At a public meeting in February, many residents along Vista Way expressed their concerns that the ending was unsafe.

In December, a young woman was killed after getting rear-ended by a driver who didn’t heed the stopping signs or signal at the end of Route 78.

Another problem spot on Route 78 is in Escondido where it ends east of Interstate 15.

Kossup said it’s still early in the process on Route 78 so construction won’t likely begin for another 10 years.

It’s important to first upgrade the interchanges along Route 78 before adding express lanes along the freeway because otherwise, cars will begin to queue up on each end.

Carlsbad Mayor Matt Hall also asked to add reclaimed water pipes along I-5 to reach the northern portion of the city.

He said currently, the city is trying to put in pipes along the railroad right of way.

“It might make some sense if you’re digging a ditch just to drop another pipe in it,” Hall said.

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