Coastal Commission OKs North County freeway expansion
SAN DIEGO — A wide-ranging, 40-year plan to handle the growing transportation needs along the North County coastline was unanimously approved Wednesday by the California Coastal Commission.
The plan, developed by Caltrans and the San Diego Association of Governments, outlines a series of rail, highway, public transit, bicycle, pedestrian and coastal resource improvements spanning 27 miles between La Jolla and Oceanside.
Approval came despite opposition from environmental groups that contend it places too much emphasis on widening Interstate 5 and not enough on alternative modes of transportation. They also claimed that SANDAG relied on obsolete data in an environmental impact report issued four years ago.
However, commission staff noted the plan includes a bikeway along the length of the shoreline, seven new miles of hiking trails and environmental mitigation projects designed to restore or enhance coastal resources.
The widening of I-5 will include four new express lanes, according to a staff report.
Commissioner Dayna Bochco, who grew up in San Diego, conceded that area residents haven’t embraced the idea of giving up their cars in the face of climate change. She said traffic on the I-5 corridor resembles the congestion she sees in Los Angeles when she drives south for visits.
“We have to educate the public — we have to get them car-broken,” Bochco said.
She called the plan “a good start,” however.
Sen. Joel Anderson, R-Alpine, Sen. Ben Hueso, D-San Diego, and Assemblyman Rocky Chavez, R-Oceanside, submitted letters of support. Local mayors, UC San Diego, Cal State San Marcos, Legoland California and the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce also backed the plan.
The commissioners made separate unanimous votes on the consistency of the plan with commission policies, a public works plans, and local plans specific to Carlsbad, Encinitas, Oceanside and San Diego.
The commission is meeting at the Catamaran Resort through Friday.