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Art, plantings aim to mitigate visual impact of I-5 widening

ENCINITAS — The city’s Arts Commission will further look into attaching artwork to retaining walls and other structures that are part of the planned Interstate 5 widening.

Council directed the commission to recommend suitable artwork and suggest where it might be placed to make the expansion more pleasing to the eye.

In addition to artwork, trees and other landscaping will be placed near freeway work to beautify the surrounding areas, according to plans.

Mike Strong, associate planner with the city, said Caltrans would likely pay for the I-5 enhancements. The agency had previously funded murals on the Lomas Santa Fe freeway interchange in Solana Beach, at a price of $160,000.

However, Caltrans has said the city would be required to maintain any artwork and landscaping.

Councilwoman Kristin Gaspar worried the city would be on the hook in case Caltrans funding doesn’t cover the entire cost of enhancements.

“Unless we’re being smart about putting money aside to allow for some of these enhancements, I just can’t trust that someone else will fund them,” Gaspar said.

Gaspar also expressed concern over the city having to paying ongoing maintenance costs for landscaping.

Strong said the city staff will bring back an agenda item on the tradeoff between artwork and maintenance costs for council consideration at a later date. He added the city will have a better idea of those costs once the scope and type of artwork is determined.

Resident Francine Filsinger, who is on the Arts Commission, said the commission has already begun examining spots for I-5 artwork, and that adding art would significantly benefit the project.

Councilman Tony Kranz said he’s hopeful that Caltrans would pay for enhancements. In case it doesn’t fund all of the artwork and landscaping, that’s one reason the city should consider dedicating 1 percent of the cost of municipal construction projects to public art.

Kranz noted several cities currently have that policy in place.

The widening would add four express lanes — two lanes in both directions — between La Jolla and Oceanside. The lanes would be open to buses, carpoolers, motorcycles and solo drivers willing to pay a fee. A construction timeline has yet to be announced.

Several speakers brought up concerns related to soundwalls, an issue that’s expected to be taken up sometime in April or May. Council will address other topics related to the widening over the next two months.

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1 comment

Sarah March 30, 2014 at 3:00 pm

As great as enhancements are, the expansion itself must be implemented in a way that eases traffic. As it stands, the widening as suggested does not mitigate enough congestion. Instead, the expansion plan should include the extension of a single carpool lane to Hwy 78, add an additional regular lane for all drivers, and auxiliary lanes for each individual exit; It should also include trams that link up with “Google buses” provided by companies who may received tax credits offsetting pollution. This alternate plan offers real, and actual easing of traffic woes in North County. Let’s see what we can do to enact this alternate transit plan.

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