By Karen Billing
Staff WriterNearly every time it rains, the on-ramp to northbound Interstate 5 on Carmel Mountain Road becomes a ramp river. Bad news for the detoured nearby residents, the city has no money to fix it, according to Bill Harris, a spokesman for the San Diego storm water department.
Harris said a blocked storm drain is causing the flooding and it’s likely that a replacement of the pipe will be needed to fix it.
“There’s no funding available for it. We’re investigating opportunities to get the funding but I don’t know how much it will cost,” Harris said. “We will find the money and we will make a fix, I just don’t have a timeline right now.”
For now, steer clear.
“The city recommends that when it rains significantly to seek alternate routes,” Harris said.
The situation has baffled residents like Guy Ravad, who serves on the Torrey Hills Community Planning Board. He said it is “ridiculous” that a five-year-old storm drain has “catastrophically failed” and that the solution is to close access to the interstate instead of making proper repairs.
“While I can understand how 50-year-old infrastructure may crumble and fail, the current problem should fall well within the warranty period. Instead I get the feeling this ramp is being used as a political pawn to demonstrate to the taxpayer what kind of services the city will not provide unless we cough up more revenue,” Ravad said. “So this is no longer about pot holes, recreation centers and libraries. The city is now unable to offer basic services to keep main arteries open.”
Ravad was confused why it appears taxpayers pay for workers but they can’t be used to fix the pipe or create a temporary drain.
“Why has this become a funding issue?” he asked.
Residents first noticed the problem in October when the rains began. The freeway entrance would be blocked off and commuters would have to take a detour to catch the 5 on El Camino Real. Even with light rains, like on Nov. 28, the ramp was still flooded with a about a foot of water and closed. With the heavier rains, the water spreads out onto Carmel Mountain Road and gets flooded by about a foot and a half of water.
The brow ditch on the side of the ramp is also full of debris and when dry, the east side of the ramp is covered in sand.
Some residents wondered if the blockage now could be related to a water main break that occurred in the area in May, causing a sinkhole on Vista Sorrento Parkway and flooding the Massage Envy in the Torrey Corner shopping center.
Harris said he doesn’t believe it’s related to the break but they won’t know the cause for sure until the excavate the area to find out if the pipe is thoroughly blocked or if a part failed which he said would be very unusual, considering it is fairly new infrastructure.
Harris said warning signage should be up for future floods on Vista Sorrento, as two lanes turn onto Carmel Mountain to access the 5. Commuters need to be warned before they turn because if the freeway entrance is blocked they have to drive all the way down to Sorrento Valley Boulevard to make a u-turn.
“We’re working with Caltrans to assure appropriate warning signs be up and help guide people away from the area until there is a fix,” Harris said.