I-5 expansion will increase gridlock

By Steve Goetsch

Resident, Solana Beach

Many people are confused by projects Caltrans has completed along the Interstate 5 corridor in San Diego and what remains. Caltrans has already completed three major projects: the widening to 23 lanes in “The Merge,” the Route 56 flyover to southbound I-5, the “auxiliary” lanes between Lomas Santa Fe and Via de la Valle and the accompanying Lomas Santa Fe bridge reconstruction.

Still on the agenda are the 20-mile, I-5 widening project (“The Big Enchilada”) from Del Mar Heights Road north to Van de Griff and the flyover from southbound I-5 to eastbound Route 56 and from westbound 56 to northbound I-5.

The environmental impact report for the 20-mile widening project (first proposed in 2001) will soon be released, no sooner than March 26. This project is estimated to cost more than $1 billion and take 20 years to complete. It was authorized by SANDAG using funds from the TransNet sales tax. It is said to meet future growth needs in the North County (vastly overstated by SANDAG at the time) and to “prevent gridlock.” It would take the present 250,000 vehicles per day and increase that load by about 5 percent.

Caltrans has not released the design, but I believe they would like to expand to 16 lanes from Del Mar Heights all the way through Solana Beach into southern Encinitas, followed by 14 lanes into Carlsbad and 12 lanes from Carlsbad to Camp Pendleton, where they expect to add 2 HOV lanes across the Marine base in the near future.

It is hard to know where to begin the objections that many of us have to both of these proposed projects, but let me try:

1) You cannot escape gridlock by “pouring more concrete.” Just look at Los Angeles.

2) Residents living near the present freeway are assaulted by noise and air pollution that I believe violates present California and U.S. EPA limits.

3) Jack Hegenauer and the Clean and Green team of Solana Beach have made the assessment that 60 percent of the greenhouse gases generated in our city come from traffic on I-5, which Caltrans wants to expand by 50 percent, in violation of state law AB232.

4) Twenty years of construction in the North County will result in 20 years of gridlock: Is this all for the sake of our descendants?

5) Kevin Costner had it right, “If you build it, they will come!” Every freeway expansion in world history has led to increases of traffic, leaving things no better off.

Please join with me, with members of PLAGUE and all clear-thinking citizens in opposing this grotesque expansion of our freeways. It is time to get smarter about transportation and not rely on thinking from the 1950s.