Community Commentary

COMMUNITY COMMENTARY: They want to pave paradise (and widen the freeway)

Remember when California was “the place where the future happens first”? Well, none of the proposed options for Caltrans’ Interstate 5 expansion project, from La Jolla to Oceanside, will get us anywhere first. On the contrary, they’ll keep us mired in an outmoded transportation system overly reliant on the internal combustion engine. Any project undertaken at this 21st century juncture needs to yield environmental benefits, and while Caltrans’ current proposals appear to address environmental concerns, in fact, they do not.
Up to 100 homes and business would have to be acquired; six lagoons would need to be disturbed; and 40-foot-high walls would be built along much of the freeway. The end result of this 40-year, $3 billion project would be a 14-lane mega-freeway showering us with yet more particulate matter and noise, while not measurably reducing our commute times.
While Caltrans’ concept of a “multi-modal” system is sound in theory, the specific options proposed all lack the vision necessary to prevent us from slipping further and further behind the rest of the world on transportation planning. The central problem is that one of the modes in this multi-modal system, the automobile, overshadows all of the others. Any plan that does not get people out of their cars, into public transportation and onto bicycles will just carry us further down the wrong road.
Caltrans thinks carpool (HOV) and gas bus lanes are the answer, and both certainly are better than the current flood of single occupancy traffic. However, continued reliance on the automobile and bus is not the answer, even with two per car. And the buses will be outmoded before the project is even completed. There’s no need to build extra lanes if we can get people out of their cars and onto trains and bikes.
The best of all options would be a light rail, or monorail, line running right down the middle of the freeway, fed by the Park and Ride lots, viable bike paths, and efficient local bus service. Alternately, existing trains could be modernized (made electric-powered, faster, and more frequent). Traditionally, the argument against such rail projects has been that they’re too expensive. This argument has always been shortsighted, as we put saving a few tax dollars above the health of our children, the beauty of our area, and the quality of our lives. In the present case, however, the proposed Caltrans project will cost $3 to $4 billion, which is almost certainly more than what such a rail project would cost.
So, the best of Caltrans’ proposed options is the “no build” option, as it would prevent our tax dollars from being squandered. But the “no build” option is only a temporary remedy. What we really need is a sustainable vision for future transportation. Let’s not add any lanes to Interstate 5 but instead use the resources for trains and bike paths. At present our bike paths are an embarrassment, as we dodge cars and thorns. However, with a relatively small amount of funding, they could be improved to the extent that people would feel safe using them. Let’s not forget that there are also real health benefits to cycling, the kind that both extend our lives and reduce our health insurance costs. If there were convenient and safe ways for people to cycle to the train and bus stations, they would do so.
California made a grave mistake after World War II when we opted for freeways over rail systems. Let’s now admit we blew it and take this opportunity to move into the future properly. If we accept Caltrans’ I-5 expansion plans, we’ll be playing transportation catch-up with the rest of the world for yet another generation.
Just say no to the new freeway expansion project proposed by Caltrans! This is one of those pivotal moments when we need to stand together against governmental folly. Caltrans has asked for citizen input. I suggest that we give it to them. Comments must be received by Oct. 7. Please use the address below.
Mail comments by Oct. 7 to:
Shay Lynn M. Harrison
Caltrans District 11, MS# 242
4050 Taylor St.
San Diego, CA 92110

Darius Degher is a Leucadia resident.

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common sense September 17, 2010 at 6:53 am

Your comments reek with logical solutions and wise options.
Plan for massive packed freeways and that is what you get.

SD8 September 17, 2010 at 9:41 am

Just more NIMBY. Or better yet, lets build a flying car port, if we are talking about ideas based in our own personal wishes, and not reality. Certainly there will be flying cars in 40 years? That’s about as realistic as the suggestions in this article. People like their cars, get over it.

Steve Moyer September 17, 2010 at 9:53 am

While I agree that the no build option is the best proposed option (rather than subsidizing long commutes with more lanes of freeway), I disagree with most of your conclusions. It’s sad that you can see the folly of government wanting to build more freeways but you can’t see that it’s the government involvement that is the problem.
"In the present case, however, the proposed Caltrans project will cost $3 to $4 billion, which is almost certainly more than what such a rail project would cost."
Based on what? Don’t forget you’re entrusting the incompetence of government to execute the rail plan.
"Any project undertaken at this 21st century juncture needs to yield environmental benefits"
Perhaps you mean that we should be aware of the environmental impacts? What if I said any meal eaten in the 21st century should yield "environment benefits", would this be any more reasonable?
"Traditionally, the argument against such rail projects has been that they’re too expensive. This argument has always been shortsighted, as we put saving a few tax dollars above the health of our children, the beauty of our area, and the quality of our lives."
Children have longer life expectancies that ever before.
Are trains more aesthetically pleasing? By how much? By who’s judgement? What about train whistles vs car noise?
Who can judge the quality of life for other people? People have mass transit options (the coaster runs parallel to the 5!) but still choose to drive. People CHOOSE to live in suburbs such as Leucadia and commute to the city rather than living closer to work.

PJay77 September 17, 2010 at 10:30 am

Quote: "People like their cars, get over it"
The present situation of "people like their cars get over it" is unsustainable. Someone mentioned the reality of the situation: The reality is that 100% use of one’s car is not going to work in the future. That is the reality. You can try to explain it away; suggest we build 30 lane freeways or other fantastical proposals, but the REALITY is that we are going to have to come up with ANOTHER solution OR limit the number of people who can live and work in Southern California.
That my friend, is something that NO ONE is going to be able to "get over."

dorndiego September 17, 2010 at 10:32 am

In the hoary old days, when I was a reporter, any time a local or state agency received proposals for light rail, or multiple commuter lanes or, for that matter, more stringent emissions regulations a small militia of "conservatives" would turn up in meetings yelling about tax dollars being wasted. They’d swell up and berate environmentalists as if they were Damn Communists, and insist that public transport was just a touchy-feely
minority preoccupation
Fact is, these people are simply afraid of bumping elbows with people they don’t know. That, and they have a love for gasoline, mistaking it for a path toward some sort of freedom (from what?). Petroleum, for them, is nearly sacred (hell smells like it, right?) and they hate the idea of sharing. And… they’re losing what they view as a battle.
MTS in San Diego (bus and trolley) says it’s been voted the best transit system in America. I can buy a senior citizen’s ticket and get anywhere I want in it huge San Diego service area for $1.10. How much do cars cost, per day, in gasoline and maintenance and insurance and parking tickets?
All these gas heads would probably prefer sending our kids to Iraq just to cop the oilfields, rather than tax themselves a few coins to ride The Coaster. They’re not conservatives any more than are people who like sending kids to war. They’re just alarmingly, provocatively, disastrously DUMB.

realencinitas September 24, 2010 at 9:58 am

I am sickened by the thought of 40-foot walls that would obscure views of Torrey Pines and the beach. While I am sympathetic to coastal property owners who wish to control the noise that this proposed project would create, our beautiful coastal views are one of the defining characteristics of our region. These views are enjoyed by all drivers and passengers who use I-5.

Also, has anyone considered the health risk to I-5 drivers with all of the carbon monoxide trapped in this 30-mile tunnel? Let’s work towards a solution that will allow us to preserve the unique resources that we have in San Diego! Let’s not compromise on this important quality of life issue!

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