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Highway Hangover
Ann Gardner | Via Latina


A wider freeway will cover 79 more feet of the Coast to Crest trail under the I-5 San Dieguito Lagoon bridge and eliminate two wooden pedestrian bridges. Courtesy San Dieguito River Park.  Click on image to enlarge.


Last month we reported on highlights from Caltrans I-5 Widening Project’s Final Environmental Impact Report (EIR) supporting the construction a 27-mile “8+4 express lanes” freeway from La Jolla to Oceanside. The EIR emphasizes the selection of the “smallest footprint” for the project, new bicycle and pedestrian trails and in-kind preservation of open space to compensate for its loss within the 8+4 footprint.

This month we are looking at how the project will impact the stretch of freeway crossing the San Dieguito River Valley Park where the Coast to Crest Trail currently runs under the freeway bridge just south of Via de la Valle and west of the under-construction Lagoon Open Air Classroom. The bridge currently consists of four general purpose (single occupancy) lanes and one HOV (High Occupancy Vehicle or carpool) lane in each direction (8+2) and a north-bound auxiliary lane that exits at Via de la Valle. The new 8+4 configuration in this area would seem to mean that the new 12-foot HOV lanes, one in each direction, would add at most 30 feet to the width of the bridge. Unfortunately, the Final EIR calls for widening the bridge over the trail an additional 79 feet, or almost 40 feet in each direction. The explanation is that the additional width is required for buffers between the general purpose and HOV lanes, wider shoulders and a wider median. In any case the two wooden trail bridges that cross the channels on the west and east sides of the existing I-5 bridge will be removed and the trail under the bridge lengthened. Also, according to River Park staff, “it does not appear that Caltrans will commit to using a noise attenuating surface, such as rubberized asphalt, on the new freeway.”

However, River Park Environmental Planner Shawna Anderson, says Caltrans is committing to work with the Park to “determine if lagoon or water-themed art and other educational amenities might be incorporated into the freeway trail undercrossing” to beautify the concrete facing adjacent to the longer trail under I-5. River Park staff was adamant in convincing Caltrans to mitigate for impacts of the widening on the Coast to Crest Trail as “substantially impairing the adjacent natural open space features and recreational experience.” In the Final EIR Caltrans says it will preserve additional acres of upland habitat adjacent to the area as mitigation.

Next Issue: Car pools and rapid bus not light rail; the public transit issue.



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