Ann Gardner | Via Latina
Graphic CalTrans DEIR
Doubling the width of I-5 to accommodate more cars may ease congestion on the freeway and reduce through traffic in Del Mar but at what cost? In dollars, 4.3 billion. The “cost” of impacts on noise levels, wetlands, scenic views and greenhouse gas emissions, is covered in a 1000-page Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR) that is now being scrutinized by Del Mar’s quickly reconstituted Fairgrounds Master Plan Ad Hoc Advisory Committee.
At first it seemed the Council was going to leave the review up to staff. Then the reality of the task at hand and the impact on Del Mar and its environmental policies kicked in: “There will be a major green house gas impact.” “It goes too far toward perpetuating one driver/one vehicle.” “There will be a significant increase in noise.” “There is no Direct Access Ramp for the Fairgrounds.”
At press time the Committee had already met twice to assign areas of review, and is scheduling additional meetings that will be open to the public. Comments on the DEIR are due October 7 although a number of groups, including Sierra Club, are working to gain an extension based on the complexity of the draft. And a growing number of public workshops are being scheduled as neighboring communities impacted directly by condemnation of private property and new 40-foot high retaining walls are organizing in opposition to all four widening alternatives. The San Diego Audubon Society has declared its support for the fifth alternative, the No-Build Option, stating that the monies would be better spent on public transit infrastructure.
Similar comments were expressed at the first Del Mar Committee meeting: “Is this the best way to allocate a ton of money rather than supporting an alternative that moves more people, such as light rail, not just more cars?” The consensus for reviewing the Draft was centered around how to balance the need for relieving congestion, taking into account Del Mar’s environmental policy to reduce gas emissions and dependence on a car-based economy. The Committee hopes to identify more alternatives especially in light of two other CalTrans proposals on the books: the I-5/56 Interchange and the LOSSAN Corridor projects.
Although the proposed 27-mile long widening project, from La Jolla Village Drive to Oceanside, is not within the Del Mar City limits, specific physical changes being considered at locations frequented by Del Mar residents include:
-Modification of the southbound (SB) ramp to replace “free” right turn capabilities, with signals for pedestrian and bicycle crossing, at both the Del Mar Heights and Via de la Valle interchanges.
-Adding lanes to both the SB and northbound on-ramps at both interchanges
-A pedestrian/bicycle bridge over I-5, north of Del Mar Heights Road connecting Lozana and Lower Ridge Road.
-Views of the expanded freeway will be visible from the back yards of “some” Del Mar Heights residences
-East bound drivers on Del Mar Heights Rd. would have “mid-ground” views of the new retaining walls.
The Sandpiper will post all related public meetings on its website. These will include both the meetings scheduled by the Del Mar Ad Hoc Committee and public workshops sponsored by neighboring community groups. The last scheduled CalTrans Open House public meeting is September 9 in Oceanside and Encinitas is planning an informational meeting on Sept. 15. Residents can read the Draft and submit comments on-line by viewing the CalTrans website www.keepsandiegomoving.com.