Ann Gardner | Via Latina
Del Mar is one of several cities and local groups expressing their concern that Caltrans’ proposed I-5 widening project has a ‘car bias’ at the expense of public transit. “Is the goal of the Project to move cars and trucks or to move people and goods? We believe the basic goal (should be) to provide both road and mass transit options. The North Coast Corridor project has a car bias,” Del Mar complained. The Carmel Valley Planning Board: “In its almost exclusive focus on the personal automobile (the plan) can only suggest that the completed project might eventually lead to a mass transit system. It remains relatively free of what a massive investment in transit might accomplish.” Solana Beach commented that the completed project would “limit the ability to develop and implement mass transit…needed to achieve goals for reducing GHG emission to combat global climate change.” It “simply makes it easier to drive alone.”
In its Final Environmental Impact Report, Caltrans responds that the project does provide more public/mass transit by adding additional High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lanes and double tracking the coastal railroad along with new mass transit oriented improvements such as a new seasonal train platform at the Fairgrounds. The Project “…encourages alternative modes of transportation by improving the existing coastal rail corridor and adding Express Lanes on I-5 that allow for use by express buses, vanpools, carpools and solo drivers using Fastrak. By giving priority to buses and other HOV’s, express lanes make public transit possible.”
To support their HOV philosophy, Caltrans plans to construct a new multi-use facility off of Manchester Avenue on the east side of the freeway. The facility, connected to I-5 by an underground Direct Access Roadway, will include charging stations for electric vehicles, parking spaces and a trailhead for bicyclists. In their literature Caltrans admits that a Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) service on I-5 does not have sufficient high ridership now to support rapid bus transit due to the proximity of the north-south trains accommodating the majority of longer distance transit travel. “However, as population and travel demand continue to grow, BRT service along the Express Lanes …may warrant inclusion in a future Regional Transportation Plan. In the meantime any future BRT on I-5 is dependent upon the construction of the planned Express Lanes.” Similar enhancements to encourage van and carpooling are planned along the corridor including at the current Carmel Valley Road Park and Ride.
Next Issue: The Cleveland National Forest Foundation (CNFF) has filed a lawsuit to prevent the widening of I-5, claiming the expansion will increase air pollution and hamper coastal cities ability to comply with California’s Greenhouse Gas Emission Reduction requirements.