Caltrans updates residents on 5/56

Impact reports for connectors due in summer of 2010

Studies continue on the Interstate 5/Highway 56 interchange project as some residents wonder how hard it will be to get around without ramps at Carmel Creek Road and Del Mar Heights Road.

Residents referred to a “triangle” of homeowners between Del Mar Heights and Carmel Creek who will no longer be able to hop on the freeway; instead, they’ll have to find a new route using surface streets.

As Caltrans moves toward releasing a draft environmental impact report next summer, the project’s steering committee met last week to hear about the project’s progress.

Caltrans representatives said they didn’t have as much information completed as they had hoped for the Nov. 4 meeting due to budget cuts and furloughs. They noted the department will only have 14 working days in November.

The EIR will study five alternatives: the direct connector, auxiliary lane alternative, hybrid, hybrid with a flyover and “no build.”

Those at the meeting said they had hoped to see visual simulations for all of the alternatives since the direct connector visual had been shown in June. But they saw only a new auxiliary lane alternative and a replay of the direct connector’s simulation.

Residents claimed Caltrans and the engineers were biased, since the direct connector alternative was shown to have virtually no traffic and the auxiliary lane showed jam-packed lanes.

Caltrans said it was not intentional.

“There is no perfect alternative,” said Allan Kosup, Caltrans director. “We’re not trying to sell anything.”

Retaining walls and reconfigured on- and off-ramps prompted the most concern. Residents of Point Del Mar said they were worried about retaining walls being above the roofs of their homes.

“In the direct connector alternative, it will be at the same level or slightly lower than the line of homes on the street,” said Chris Johnson, project manager with Dokken Engineering.

In the direct connector alternative, walls range from 10 to 40 feet; retaining walls in the auxiliary lane alternative are shorter and lower, Johnson said.

An additional sound wall will be on top of the retaining wall and its height will be determined by noise studies, Caltrans project manager Arturo Jacobo said.

The loss of Carmel Creek Road as a 56 on- and off-ramp in the direct connector alternative was a concern raised by both residents and the Carmel Valley representatives.

Caltrans said that the ramp has to be removed for safety purposes. With the direct connector, there will not be enough distance for traffic to safely merge to or from Carmel Creek ramps.

The Del Mar Heights interchange would also change significantly. It would only be accessible by a bypass on northbound I-5, and drivers getting on the freeway at Del Mar Heights would use a bypass headed to south I-5, east 56 or to get off on Carmel Valley Road.

Residents wondered aloud how the loss of Carmel Creek and portions of the Del Mar Heights interchange would affect surface street traffic as commuters and even emergency responders seek alternate routes.

“That’s what we’ve been worried about since day one,” said Jan Fuchs, Carmel Valley representative on the steering committee.

Jacobo said all the traffic impacts would be included in the EIR. The release of draft EIR will be followed by a 60-day comment period and several community meetings.

View the visual simulations of the direct connector and auxiliary lane alternative at