By Karen Billing
The California Department of Transportation, or Caltrans, hosted its only public meeting on the Interstate 5/State Route 56 draft environmental impact report (DEIR) on June 13 at Del Mar Hills Academy. The agency seeks public input as it looks at four possible alternatives to make the missing linkages between I-5 South and 56 East, and 56 West and I-5 North.
Allan Kosup, Caltrans I-5 corridor director, said they are tasked with finding a solution that is sensitive to the community and the environment while addressing local congestion, cut-through traffic and regional connections.
“There’s no preferred alternative at this point, so public input in this process is a very important part in the selection of the preferred alternative,” Kosup said.
The comment period for the DEIR has been extended to the maximum 60 days, ending on July 17. Kosup said they expect to make their decision on the preferred alternative by the end of 2012. The final EIR would be released in late 2013, with project construction targeted for 2020-30 if any build option is selected.
The need for the 5/56 interchange improvements comes in looking forward to 2040, where the traffic is going to be double what it is today, with increased travel times and more traffic finding its way through the community, Kosup said.
The alternatives aim to lower the volume cutting through local streets and generate travel time savings.
The alternatives studied in the DEIR include no build, the direct connector, auxiliary lane improvements, hybrid, and hybrid with flyover.
The direct connector bridges the 56 and the 5 in both directions and adds two lanes on westbound 56 and one lane on eastbound 56 between Carmel Country Road and El Camino Real.
The auxiliary lane alternative adds one auxiliary lane on southbound 5 between Del Mar Heights Road and Carmel Valley Road and provides some improvements on westbound 56 from Carmel Country Road to El Camino Real.
The hybrid alternative connects westbound 56 with northbound 5 via a two-lane connector ramp. It adds an auxiliary lane on southbound 5 between Del Mar Heights and Carmel Valley Road and adds two lanes on westbound 56 and one lane on eastbound 56 between Carmel Country and El Camino Real.
The hybrid with flyover option connects westbound 56 with northbound 5 with a connector ramp and eastbound Carmel Valley Road to eastbound 56 with an on-ramp connector. It also adds one auxiliary lane on southbound 5 and two lanes on westbound 56 and one on eastbound 56.
All of the build alternatives replace and enhance the Del Mar Heights overcrossing and costs range from $90 million for the auxiliary lane beef up to $250 million for the direct connector.
“In general, the alternatives provide a 10 to 20 percent reduction in regional traffic trying to go through the community,” Kosup said.
Travel time savings among the alternatives range from five to 20 minutes.
As for noise, all of the alternatives provide a reduction in the noise level over today’s condition, Kosup said.