Torrey Pines board protesting connector

Members of the Torrey Pines Community Planning Board will soon ask for support in their petition protesting the widening of Interstate 5 and the Highway 56 connector project.

The petition will be sent to the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG), which developed a Regional Transportation Plan for the year 2030 with more than $42 billion slated for highway construction.

The board is asking that SANDAG “think before they build” and enhance public transit before approving Caltrans proposals that would widen the freeway and potentially add a 70-foot flyover connector from I-5 to Highway 56.

Caltrans is currently reviewing plans to widen Interstate 5 from Oceanside to La Jolla and to connect Interstate 5 with Highway 56.

The 5-56 project is in the steering committee phase now. The committee meets quarterly with several groups including representatives from the Torrey Pines and Carmel Valley Community planning boards.

Their last meeting in March was cancelled but Caltrans is reviewing four options for the connector, including adding auxiliary lanes, a direct connector, a hybrid of both or not building at all. All options will be studied in an Environmental Impact Report, expected this spring.

Congressman Brian Bilbray (R-Solana Beach) recently requested $3.61 million from the House Appropriations Committee to complete the 5-56 connector.

“Without proactive measures, the current gridlock that plagues the region will become far worse,” Bilbray wrote in a news release. “For this reason, completing the SR-56 to I-5 Interchange Connector is absolutely critical to provide congestion relief for the City of San Diego.”

The planning board’s petition emphasizes preserving the community, which includes not only homes, but also sensitive coastal habitat and species.

“Every day our sole intent is to preserve what we can and that is the result of proper planning,” Adam Gevanthor, board vice chair, said.

The board’s petition also complains that SANDAG’s approach pits local communities against one another. In the 5-56 case, Pacific Highlands Ranch has become a target as it has been forever linked to the connectors by Proposition M. The proposition capped construction in the Pacific Highlands Ranch community until the connection is made between 5-South and 56-East and 56-West to 5-North.

The petition asks that SANDAG “Deny approval of highways and infrastructure projects for new communities that sacrifice the health and quality of life of children and families in existing communities.”

Dennis Ridz, the new chairman of the planning board said this issue is as important as the Trestles fight was for their northern neighbors. Ridz said petitioners would camp out in front of places like Von’s and Ralphs to find supporters.

“The time and effort we’ve put in we don’t want to come back with a couple hundred signatures, we want much more than that,” Ridz said.