5/56 option shown

Residents got their first peek at what a direct connector from Interstate 5 to Highway 56 would look like last Thursday from a 3-D video animation shown at the 5/56 steering committee meeting.

As the animation traveled south on Interstate 5 there were groans and gasps at the 35- to 45-foot-tall retaining walls that would line the western side of the freeway. Noise from the audience only increased as the flyovers were shown, making the connection between the 5 south and the 56 east.

“That’s disgusting,” homeowner Robert Cotton said loudly.

As the show ended, the meeting room at the Carmel Valley Library dissolved into hushed conversations.

The direct connector alternative was the only proposal that Caltrans has animated. The others probably won’t be completed before Oct. 15, the last steering committee meeting on the project, Allan Kosup, Caltrans director of the Interstate-5 corridor, said.

At the meeting, Caltrans representatives promoted their new 5-56 project Web site, at

, but said they did not have the technology to include the animation on their site for more of the public to see.

Four alternatives left

Caltrans continues to study four alternatives for 5/56: the direct connector, an auxiliary lane, a hybrid connector and a hybrid with flyover.

The direct connector alternative, the most controversial, involves making flyover connections for the 5-south to the 56-east and the 56-west to the 5-north. It also includes realigning Portofino Circle in a residential neighborhood on the west side of Interstate 5.

The direct connector carries the highest price tag of all the alternatives, at $150 to $170 million.

The auxiliary lane alternative, the cheapest at $80 to $90 million, proposes no connections in either direction but instead widens city and freeway streets.

The hybrid connector constructs a westbound to northbound connector but uses auxiliary lanes eastbound to southbound. The alternative would cost $95 to $105 million.

The hybrid with flyover alternative includes a flyover structure that would connect eastbound Carmel Valley Road to the eastbound 56 fast lane in addition to a 56-west to 5-north connector. It would cost $140 to $160 million.

Kosup said 5/56 has a funding level of $130 million over 40 years through the TransNet transportation project funding program, approved by voters in 2004.

Kosup said Caltrans is currently measuring noise levels and working out how to abate that noise as well as completing traffic studies, to see which alternative will best improve travel times.

All of the traffic studies being conducted assume the full build-out of Pacific Highlands Ranch, always mentioned in 5/56 discussions due to its Proposition M-mandated caps on development until connections are made.

Caltrans reported that only 10 percent of the demand for all of the alternatives comes from Pacific Highlands Ranch.

What is assumed to be a very hefty Environmental Impact Report, Kosup said possibly the largest the state has ever done, is due by spring or summer of 2010.

Several audience members wondered whether they would still be able to have a say about the project before the preferred option is selected.

“There will be public review and hearings at city council. There will be a number of opportunities to influence the outcome of this project,” said Scott Tillson, the Carmel Valley representative on the committee.

Caltrans and city representatives said they hope that the public sessions will work as well as the steering committee process has over the last year.

“We’ve had a lot of community input. We’ve definitely listened and re-evaluated some things,” said Marnell Gibson, a city project engineer. “It’s been a very, very effective process.”