Del Mar Rotary Club updated on Caltrans’ North Coast Corridor Program

By Karen Billing

The Del Mar Rotary Club received an update on Caltrans’ North Coast Corridor Program at its June 19 meeting — $6.5 billion worth of transportation improvement work that will be phased out over the next 40 years.

According to Arturo Jacobo, Caltrans project manager, Caltrans and SANDAG (San Diego Association of Governments) have created a comprehensive strategy for the corridor that includes highway improvements that move people not just cars, rail and transit improvements, coastal access improvements, and the protection of 170 acres of coastal and lagoon habitats.

The long-range development plan will be presented to the Coastal Commission for approval on Aug. 13-14 in San Diego.

The first phase of the plan is fully funded, Jacobo said. The first phase of the plan includes high occupancy vehicle lanes from Manchester to SR-78 and double tracking 1.1 miles of railway south of the Sorrento Valley Station to allow for more trains and improved services.

Construction is also expected to begin in January 2015 on the Genesee interchange improvements, which will also include a type-1 bike facility between the Sorrento Valley Station and UC San Diego.

Jacobo said the aging I-5 has gone more than 40 years without major capacity improvements. The widening project hopes to improve regional mobility to the “lifeline to San Diego”— the freeway handles over 700,000 daily trips and the demand is expected to grow.

Jacobo said they selected the smallest footprint possible to widen I-5. The project will include four new general-purpose lanes in each direction, plus two carpool lanes similar to what is seen on I-15 but not separated by a concrete barrier.

For the entire 27-mile corridor, they are also adding a separated type-1 bike lane.

“We will be building a lot of retaining walls,” Jacobo said. “It’s going to look very different in the future. A lot of those slopes will be removed and replaced with walls.”

Jacobo said they won’t be “typical grade” retaining walls” as they will use earth tone colors and aim to reflect some of the character of the community — such as the public art seen in Solana Beach retaining walls.

Jacobo said there has been an “unprecedented amount of work” with environmental resource agencies to let them know how they can mitigate the widening project.

Work includes restoration of the San Elijo Lagoon and lengthening the highway bridge over the lagoon to improve tidal flow. A new trail suspended from the highway bridge at Manchester Avenue will provide north-south trail connectivity, and Jacobo said they also plan to create a park and ride lot that can also be used by the San Elijo Lagoon nature center with charging stations and bathrooms.

They also plan to create a class 1 bike trail on old Sorrento Valley Road.

Since 2003, Jacobo said Caltrans has worked very hard on the I-5/SR-56 interchange project, which seeks to make the connections never made between I-5 South and 56-East and 56-West to I-5 North. A draft environmental impact report was released in 2013 and Jacobo said there are a few reasons why it hasn’t moved forward, primarily that they have been focused on the I-5 corridor but also because of funding.

“We can’t finish the environmental document until the next phase is funded and until the design is identified,” Jacobo said. “It’s extremely expensive whether we do the auxiliary lane or the connector alternative.”

He expects that the preferred alternative could be selected by the end of 2014 but construction will likely not occur until 2020-2030.

For more information on the North Coast Corridor Program, visit