* The city of Del Mar ad hoc committee reviewing the EIR/EIS on the widening project completed an 18 page draft letter of comment. This letter was approved unanimously by the Del Mar City Council and was sent to Caltrans and other interested parties as the City of Del Mar’s official position. The letter was critical of the environmental document in many important respects, raising questions about why so much money was being spent on a car/truck solution instead of on mass transit, what the impacts to traffic circulation on Del Mar’s local streets would be, why these impacts were not discussed and why no mitigation was proposed; questioning the impacts of noise and light pollution to the wetlands, raising concerns about water runoff and pollution, about truck traffic, and raising other important issues. Anyone interested in the specifics can obtain a copy of the letter at City Hall . Bottom line: the City of Del Mar’s letter recommends that the EIR/EIS be substantially revised and re-circulated for further public review and comment.
* The cities of Oceanside, Carlsbad, and Solana Beach completed their reviews of the environmental documents. Solana Beach and Oceanside retained outside consultants, while Carlsbad used its own city staff. All three cities were critical of the environmental document and asked for major revisions.
* State Senators Christine Kehoe and Allen Lowenthal held a state senate committee hearing in Solana Beach on November 8 at which top Caltrans and SANDAG staff presented the proposed widening project in some detail. There were more than 100 people present, and many public speakers all of whom, with a few exceptions, were critical of the proposed project and of its environmental documentation.
* SANDAG, which is one of the sponsoring agencies for the project, asked its staff to prepare a letter of comment on the project questioning whether the larger versions of the project (10+4 lanes) were financially feasible noting that these larger options are only consistent with the voter approved TRANSNET plan for improving transit in north county in an “unconstrained “ revenue scenario emphasizing highways, and supporting instead the 8 lanes plus 4 managed lanes option. As I write this piece, the draft SANDAG letter is scheduled for consideration by the SANDAG board in a few days.
* Elected officials in some of the coastal north county cities are working to see if a scaled back widening alternative might be supported by the cities. While no specific proposal has yet to emerge, one of the key aspects being discussed is keeping any widening within the existing freeway footprint.
* The period for commenting on the EIR/EIS ended Monday, November 22. After all the comments are in, Caltrans District Director Laurie Berman, and her staff, will review all the comments and prepare responses, and direct what changes, if any, will be made to the EIR/EIS. They report this will take them probably until mid 2011. In the final analysis, it is Laurie Berman, Caltran’s District director, and her counterpart at the Federal Highway Administration who will make the final decision as to the adequacy of the environmental document and who will select which alternative will proceed. If the project proceeds, construction is anticipated to begin in 2013, and construction is expected to be ongoing in one form or another until 2040.