The California Transportation Commission voted June 30 to allocate $103.7 million to the San Diego region to extend carpool lanes on Interstate 5 (I-5) and add a second track to a portion of the coastal rail line in North San Diego County.
The funding will enable the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG) and the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) to begin construction on a $700 million package of projects, aimed to accomplish the following goals:
· Expand travel choices by extending the carpool lanes on I-5 from Lomas Santa Fe Drive to State Route 78.
· Increase the efficiency and reliability of the rail corridor with two double tracking projects across the San Elijo and Batiquitos Lagoons.
· Add bike/pedestrian improvements in Encinitas and Carlsbad. The interchanges at Encinitas Boulevard and Santa Fe Drive will be upgraded with new bike/pedestrian paths.
· Restore the San Elijo Lagoon, specifically to improve tidal flow and water quality and expand the salt marsh habitat.
Construction is scheduled to begin in late 2016. The projects comprise the first phase of the North Coast Corridor Program, a $6 billion investment in infrastructure and environmental improvements along the coast between La Jolla and Oceanside over the next 30 years.
“This transportation corridor is among the most important assets in our region,” said SANDAG Chair and San Diego County Board of Supervisors Chair Ron Roberts. “Once again, we are pleased that by combining state funding with our local TransNet half-cent sales tax, we are able to move forward with much needed improvements that provide congestion relief and enhanced rail services. The vote by the CTC demonstrates the importance of having a dedicated local source of funding to leverage outside dollars to get key regional infrastructure built.”
Approximately 25 percent of the North Coast Corridor program funding will come from TransNet, the voter-approved, half-cent sales tax for local transportation projects, which is administered by SANDAG.
“The CTC vote marks a pivotal milestone for the North Coast Corridor Program and moves us closer to the start of construction” said Caltrans I-5 Corridor Director Allan Kosup. “We look forward to beginning construction on the first set of transportation and environmental enhancements near Encinitas later this year.”
To date, 67 percent of the coastal rail corridor in San Diego County has been double tracked. About $1 billion of rail improvement projects are under development or planned in the corridor over the next few decades, with the goal of fully double tracking the entire 60-mile stretch of the rail corridor within the county. This stretch of the rail corridor is part of what is formally known as the Los Angeles– San Diego–San Luis Obispo Rail Corridor (LOSSAN). LOSSAN is the second busiest intercity rail corridor in the nation, supporting commuter, intercity, and freight services.
Train operations on the line include Amtrak’s Pacific Surfliner; the Southern California Regional Rail Authority’s Metrolink; the North County Transit District’s COASTER passenger rail service; and Union Pacific and BNSF Railway freight rail services. Each year, more than 2.7 million intercity passengers and 4.9 million commuter rail passengers (Metrolink and COASTER) travel the LOSSAN corridor. One in every nine Amtrak riders uses the corridor.
Averaging more than 700,000 vehicle trips daily, the I-5 North commute corridor serves as a critical north-south link connecting San Diego to Los Angeles County, Orange County, and Baja California, Mexico. The corridor serves as a gateway for commuters, recreational users, goods movement, business centers, and local residents, providing access to 22 percent of the region’s total jobs.
More information on the North Coast Corridor Project is available at: http://www.keepsandiegomoving.com/North-Coast-Corridor/NCCHome.aspx.