Caltrans I-5 EIR ‘ambiguous and unstable,’ according to Solana Beach findings


By Marlena Chavira-Medford

Staff Writer

Caltrans has proposed expanding Interstate-5 from La Jolla to Oceanside, and earlier this year it released a Draft Environmental Impact Report (EIR) that outlines the potential impacts of that project. After hiring a team of consultants, the City of Solana Beach has found that report to be “ambiguous and unstable,” according to a 12-page executive summary that will be submitted to Caltrans this week.

Some of the concerns with that EIR were shared during a special council meeting Nov. 18.

“[The EIR] is particularly egregious for a project of this scope,” said Mike Hogan, who serves as special counsel for the city and compiled the executive summary.

One of the main issues, he said, is that the design plans for this project, which proposes adding four to six traffic lanes, are only about 10 percent complete, so “we just don’t know what [Caltrans] wants to do, and we can’t know the impact until the design is more complete.”

He also said that there were “simply no standards” when it came to determining what classified as a “significant versus not significant” environmental impact. The EIR also does not address the impacts of project’s construction, which is projected to take 38 years, nor are mitigations for those effects addressed.

“[The EIR] only identifies four alternatives and all of them involve building more freeway lanes. There is no mention of mass transit options, and [the California Environmental Quality Act] requires them to explore those other alternatives,” he said.

“To say this document is inadequate is too polite,” said Solana Beach councilmember Mike Nichols of the EIR. “We need to look beyond building a freeway to solve these problems.”

The consultants hired by Solana Beach are recommending that the EIR be totally recalled, rewritten and then re-circulated to the public. Solana Beach councilmember David Roberts suggested that the city “should get our money back from Caltrans” for having to expend $80,000 to prepare this report.

“We need to figure out a strategy to make sure a state agency can’t do this to us again,” he added.

After considering public input, Caltrans and the Federal Highway Administration are expected to decide sometime next year whether or not to go through with the project and, if so, which expansion option to choose.