Group hopes to usurp Caltrans’ plan to widen I-5

PLAGUE retains two attorneys

A group of North County residents is already geared up to fight Caltrans’ plan to widen Interstate 5 between La Jolla and Oceanside, although the draft environmental impact report for the project is not likely to come out until after March 26.

The group, PLAGUE (Prevent Los Angeles Gridlock Usurping Environment), is also targeting one adjacent Caltrans project — a proposal to build a 70-foot-high flyover connecting the I-5 and Highway 56. The draft EIR for that project is expected to be complete in fall 2010.

Members of the citizen group held a nearly three-hour-long meeting on Jan. 13 at Del Mar Hills Academy to hear from attorneys and experts about how to prevent the project. More than 80 people attended. Many signed a petition opposing the project and some donated funds to the effort.

Organizer Carla LaPorte said that leading up to the meeting, volunteers canvassed neighborhoods along the I-5 with about 3,000 door hangers inviting residents to a “Town Hall Meeting” to learn about preventing “Caltrans from turning San Diego into a Los Angeles-like concrete jungle.”

“All the alternatives are being studied equally, including no build,” said Allan Kosup, director of the Interstate 5 corridor for Caltrans.

The proposed widening is between two major employment regions of La Jolla and Oceanside.

Kosup said Caltrans is basing the plan to widen I-5 and build the connectors with funds from Proposition A, which voters approved in November 2006. It extended the TransNet Program, originally approved in 1987, which implemented a one-half cent sales tax to fund a variety of transportation projects throughout San Diego County.

Prop. A identified major construction and infrastructure projects that should be tackled first — called Early Action Projects — including congestion on Interstates 5, 15 and 8, state Routes 52 and 76 and several public transportation projects. The San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG) administers the funds generated by TransNet and is currently updating its 2050 Regional Transportation Plan.

“Building the I-5 HOV (high-occupancy vehicle) lane and connectors are part of the region’s 20-year transportation vision,” Kosup said.

Del Mar Councilwoman Crystal Crawford said at the meeting that “if the community has changed its opinion about how we should be spending your tax dollars, we need your help.”

A member of the SANDAG board as the representative for the city, she encouraged people to attend the SANDAG board of director’s retreat on Jan. 28 and 29 to share their concerns. The retreat takes place at Barona Casino.

For information, visit www.
SANDAG.org.

PLAGUE invited Marco Gonzales, a partner at the Coast Law Group; attorney Rachel Hooper; and planner Laurel Impett of San Francisco law firm Shute, Mihaly & Weinberger LLP, which specializes in government, land use, natural resource management and environmental law, to speak.

“Even though this project seems like a done deal, don’t think that is the case at all,” Hooper said.

Gonzales said that in the past SANDAG has acted to create a lot of momentum for projects. “We’re here to spotlight the fact that they may not have taken a look at all the alternatives,” he said.

Impett, an expert on the California Environmental Quality Act, said the law requires that any alternatives to a proposal that do not have a negative environmental impact must be adopted unless an agency can show that the economic or social benefits outweigh the consequences.

She said that because the project will also rely on federal funding, it must meet National Environmental Policy Act standards, but those requirements are less stringent than California’s.

Hooper said that once the EIR is released, the attorneys will get to work picking through it to find “every single inadequacy,” and she expects their comments back to Caltrans will be “voluminous.”

Solana Beach resident Jack Hegenauer, a retired UCSD research biochemist, gave a slide presentation about greenhouse gas emissions around the freeway.

He said that when Caltrans added an HOV lane in each direction on
I-5 between Via de la Valle to just south of Manchester Avenue, which bisects Solana Beach, and modified the Lomas Santa Fe Drive interchange, “it changed the character of the community.”

A recent study by the Solana Beach Clean and Green Committee found that greenhouse emissions along the 1.8-mile stretch of I-5 through Solana Beach exceed 600 million pounds per year of carbon dioxide particles, Hegenauer said.

Philip Raphael, who lives on Portofino Drive in the Torrey Pines neighborhood, also expressed concern about noise pollution. He said his backyard borders I-5 and that he has measured 75 decibels of freeway sound in his backyard.

Impett said that the noise level is already well above federal standards. “Any increase is unacceptable.”

For more information about Caltrans’ plans for the I-5 corridor, visit keepsandiegomoving.com/I-5_intro.
For more on PLAGUE, visit www.I-5PLAGUE.com.

Related posts:

  1. 5/56 opponents want Caltrans to shift focus
  2. Group calls for change to freeway plans
  3. Caltrans updates residents on 5/56
  4. SANDAG seeks volunteers
  5. Concerns linger at major intersection in Solana Beach

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