DMUSD in talks with Caltrans about 5-56 impacts on Del Mar Hills

Several Del Mar Hills Academy parents spoke before the Del Mar Union School District (DMUSD) board on Sept. 27 about their concerns about the proximity of the school to the proposed Interstate 5-State Route 56 connector project.

Caltrans’ project will link westbound SR-56 with I-5 north and I-5 south and SR-56 east with flyover ramps — the $300 million project is not funded for final design or construction but once funding is identified, the project could be built in phases with a potential start date of 2035.

The Torrey Pines community has long opposed the connectors due to the “significant” impacts the connectors would have on their community, including on the elementary school as one of the ramps would run within 57 feet of the school’s main building.

A final environmental impact report (FEIR) was released over the summer and the public has 150 days from the release of the document to legally challenge the NEPA (National Environmental Policy Act) review.

Del Mar Hills parent Heather Bushman said Caltrans’ plan is of great concern to those in the community and urged the district to take some action within the 150-day timeframe.

“It will look to Caltrans as though the school district approves this project and we may not have legal standing later,” Bushman said.

DMUSD Superintendent Holly McClurg said she met with Caltrans last week and that the district would be continuing conversations with them. Arturo Jacobo, Caltrans project manager for the North Coast Corridor, said that it was a positive meeting and he showed the district how the FEIR is consistent with the plans seen during the draft circulation of the document.

McClurg said she has also attended the Torrey Pines Community Planning Board meetings on the topic and discussed the project with San Diego City Councilmember Barbara Bry.

McClurg said it is true that the project comes within 57 feet of the district property.

The Torrey Pines Community Planning Board has expressed concerns that the ramp will be six feet below a sound wall, potentially exposing children playing on the basketball court and playing fields to toxic diesel fumes. At last week’s meeting, resident Brian Farmer encouraged the district to stress the importance of mediation for “excessive noise and pollution” both during construction and after the project has been completed.

“We want the community to know that we definitely have direction from our board and that our district staff is committed to making sure our children are safe,” McClurg said.