The Stop5Noise group, the most vocal opponent of the Interstate 5/Highway 56 interchange project, has shifted gears.
The group's objective was originally focused on freeway noise and protesting homes being torn down to make way for the ramps. Now, they oppose the project altogether, arguing that it is not needed.
"This is not one of the big traffic issues in San Diego," Carla LaPorte of Stop5 said. "There are other places to spend that money. To spend $30 million here is insane."
Many local planning groups have taken an official position on the connection project, but the Carmel Valley Community Planning Board has yet to weigh in.
Their stance has been that they would like to see all studies completed on the project options before taking a position.
But Scott Tillson, a member of the planning board and the 5/56 steering committee, said that perhaps the time is now to make a stance, as opponents are more strongly objecting to the project as a whole.
The 5/56 steering committee will next meet Dec. 18 at the Carmel Valley Library at 2 p.m. Updates on traffic, the schedule and new visual simulations are on the agenda, according to Arturo Jacobo, Caltrans project manager.
The project is designed to solve congestion problems and accommodate projected growth for the region over the next 30 years.
The two alternatives currently under review are the auxiliary lane alternative and the direct connector, which would create new connections between I-5 south and Hwy. 56 east and 5 north and 56 west.
A decision on the preferred alternative should be made next year, with construction potentially beginning in 2011 and ending by 2014.
According to Caltrans, the project will be paid for by a combination of TransNet, federal, state and local funds.
Stop5 prefers a "no build" alternative.
"We want it totally off the books because we don't want a black cloud hanging over our heads," LaPorte said.
As Caltrans released alternatives for the project, residents of Del Mar Villas on the hill above I-5 found that in the project's widest footprint, more than 20 homes would be removed.
No homes are currently threatened, but the neighborhood will change with the direct connector.
To offset the ramp option, Caltrans will have to make changes to Portofino Road, which runs though the Del Mar Villas neighborhood. The two-lane drive would be made into a one-way street and sound walls would need to be built. The plans can be viewed at
LaPorte said their community is beautiful and the changes will be "claustrophobic," traveling on a one-way street flanked by sound walls and retaining walls.
"It's just not fair," LaPorte said.
The PHR connection
The 5/56 project is one that impacts Carmel Valley, Tillson said, more than just frustrated drivers taking short cuts through its residential streets to avoid traffic jams.
As so much of Pacific Highlands Ranch's infrastructure is tied to the connections being made between the freeways due to Proposition M requirements, he said, without the 5/56 link some 1,900 homes will be left stranded without grocery stores, recreation and other resources.
Those residents will continue to have to use already inundated Carmel Valley as a source and they really deserve their own community, Tillson said.
PHR, whether it wants to be or not, has become directly associated with the 5/56 project.
"The 56 is all about Pacific Highlands Ranch," said LaPorte, "so Pardee can continue building homes."
Tillson said that it's unfortunate that PHR bears the brunt of the criticism and said the claim that Pardee is behind the project is untrue.