By Pat sherman
C?rawling through rush hour traffic along Interstate 5 in North County can make San Diego feel a little bit like L.A., only with fewer billboards and Bentleys.
About 700,000 people per day travel some portion of the 27-mile stretch of I-5 spanning from La Jolla Village Drive to the northern end of Oceanside. Caltrans expects that number to increase by 30 percent (to 1 million people) by 2030.
To ease congestion (and road rage), Caltrans and the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG) has planned $6 billion in improvements, which include widening I-5 from eight to 12 lanes and adding an additional rail line in North County to increase rider counts on the Metrolink, Coaster and Amtrak trains.
“You’re not going to be able to meet all our demands just by widening the highway,” says Caltrans I-5 corridor director, Allan Kosup. “It’s got to be a little bit of railway and a little bit of highway and additional bus service to address the long-range need.”
The project, to be funded in part by the region’s half-cent Transnet sales tax, must clear environmental hurdles before construction can begin-in 2013, at the earliest.
“It’s going to get built out in phases over the next 20 years or so,” Kosup says.In the meantime, the freeways may need a crash diet to lose the wait.
Taking Its Toll
Fee rollback seen as likely for economically challenged roadway
South County motorists could save time and money if the San Diego Association of Governments’ (SANDAG) bid to take over the State Route 125 toll road is approved by the public this fall.
The fee to drive the 10-mile stretch, which runs from Otay Mesa north to State Route 54, is $4 for most vehicles and twice that for vehicles with three or more axles. SANDAG officials say they would reduce the price to combat such highway robbery.
Since it opened in 2007, the roadway has been operated by the privately owned South Bay Expressway, LLC, which entered into bankruptcy when projected South Bay development went south with the economy. SANDAG has offered the company $345 million to assume the lease. -Ashley Cook