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Council reviews highway expansion plans

CARLSBAD — Several City Council members echoed concerns voiced by Carlsbad residents about Caltrans’ proposed I-5 widening project following a presentation at the Nov. 9 council meeting.
Caltrans representatives Alan Kosup and Arturo Jacobo attended Tuesday’s meeting to review the project and how it could affect Carlsbad, as well as to take questions.
If approved, the widening project would add managed lanes, sound walls and improved rapid transit options along a 27-mile stretch of I-5 from La Jolla to Oceanside, Kosup said.
Four alternative designs and one no-build option are included in the project proposal, ranging from four additional lanes to more than six added to I-5.
“We all recognize I-5 as an important regional asset for us,” Kosup said, of the highway’s many uses. “It’s this real tension of doing what’s right for transportation and also respecting the corridor.”
Council members took public comments and asked questions of their own. Many of the statements were consistent with those made by residents at recent open house forums and town hall meetings on the subject held around North County.
Mayor Pro Tem Ann Kulchin expressed concerns about funding for the project, which could cost as much as $4.6 billion depending on the design chosen, and who would be responsible should the money run out during construction.
Councilman Keith Blackburn worried that construction along the I-5 corridor would only add to the congestion that Caltrans has proposed to relieve with the additional lane options.
“We’re not thinking outside of the box,” Carlsbad resident Dan Marks, a retired physician, said. “Let’s stop thinking about extra lanes and let’s start thinking about other possibilities.”
While other residents expressed an interest in improved rapid transit around North County, Councilman Mark Packard said the issue that the area now faces is a double-edged sword.
“The challenge with mass transit is that for it to be effective, you have to have mass,” Packard, Carlsbad’s representative on the North County Transit District’s board, said. “Carlsbad has deliberately chosen to have low density.”
Council did not take any action at Tuesday’s meeting and will review the project further at a scheduled council workshop next week.
City Manager Lisa Hildabrand said city staff will deliver their analysis of the project’s Draft Environmental Impact Report on Nov. 16 at the Faraday Administration Building, 1635 Faraday Ave., starting at 11 a.m.
Residents are also encouraged to provide feedback on Caltrans’ proposed I-5 widening project at www.keep The public comment deadline has been extended until Nov. 22.