5/56 opponents want Caltrans to shift focus


It’s 5 p.m. on an average workday. People who take Highway 56 east to get home know where the bottleneck is going to be.

It’s going to be snarled where the freeway shrinks from three to two lanes at Carmel Creek Road. And it’s going to be like a parking lot from there to Carmel Valley Road, an exit that purges a great deal of cars.

At last week’s 5/56 Steering Committee meeting, residents had this question for Caltrans: If the problem exists on Hwy. 56, why don’t you solve it there first and see if that clears up some congestion on I-5?

Maybe then, residents argued, the proposed $300 million Interstate 5 to Hwy. 56 connector project won’t be needed and maybe then residents on the west side of the I-5 won’t have to see any changes to their communities.

Many of Caltrans’ project models even assume that Hwy. 56 has been widened in both directions from two to four lanes plus two carpool lanes - the widening project is expected to be complete by 2030.

“You’re building this beautiful connector to dump a great amount of traffic on a road that’s already full,” said Jon Donahue, who lives in Del Mar Villas on the west of I-5.

Allan Kosup of Caltrans explained that all of the jobs they do have to have “individual utility,” or be successful on their own.

The 5/56 project’s goal is to clean up local congestion and reduce travel delays caused by a lack of linkage between South I-5 and Hwy. 56 East and 56 West and North I-5. The Hwy. 56 widening is a separate project with separate objectives, Kosup said.

Part of the steering committee process is to release pieces of information as they happen, whereas most of this information wouldn’t be seen until a draft environmental impact report is released. The tentative, piece-mil information can often confuse and frustrate meeting attendees.

The draft EIR for the 5/56 proposal is expected to be presented in June of 2010, tentatively setting its approval after public review in March of 2011. The connector project would take about two to three years to build.

There will be considerable downtime until the steering committee next meets, not until March 19 at the Carmel Valley Library.

The latest snippets of information released on Dec. 18 were new visual renderings of the hybrid alternative with a flyover.

Chris Johnson, a project manager from Dokken Engineering, said this option creates a flyover that connects Hwy. 56 West with I-5 North. There is no flyover on the other side - eastbound Carmel Valley Road would connect to the fast lane on Hwy. 56.

Point Del Mar residents were concerned that a proposed sound wall, shown in a rendering, stops before reaching their neighborhood and changes the view from their homes to a 40- to 50-foot high flyover at its highest point.

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