After hearing hours of commentary both in favor of and against a proposed multibillion-dollar expansion of Interstate 5 in North County, members of the California Coastal Commission gave their blessing to the plan.

The plan was supported by commission staffers and a host of local politicians. State senators Joel Anderson and Ben Hueso, state assembly member Rocky Chavez, and mayors representing all 18 of the county's cities voiced their support, as did the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce, Legoland California, UC San Diego, and CSU San Marcos. Dozens of orange-shirted construction union members attended, in support of the extra work the expansion would provide.

A CalTrans presentation highlighted the need for expansion, noting that 22% of the region's jobs, a share that exceeds that of the Downtown area, were based along the corridor. It was also noted that the route was the major thoroughfare shuttling tourists into the region from the Los Angeles area, and that existing suburban sprawl means that the attraction of single-occupant vehicle travel is unlikely to dissipate any time soon.

San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer, describing himself as an "avid cyclist," said the planned expansion, which includes miles of cycling and walking paths in addition to the addition of freeway lanes over a 27-mile stretch, would "drastically improve the quality of life for hundreds of thousands of San Diego area residents."

Individual residents and representatives of environmental groups, however, voiced strong opposition when given their turn at the podium.

Several Encinitas residents lamented the potential destruction of strawberry fields to make way for a Park and Ride lot. Dr. Mary Young, a Solana Beach resident, said the project was "fraught with problems" related to state-mandated goals to reduce climate change. Another resident suggested money for the project could be better used on converting the Coaster train service to electric power.

A host of speakers, including BikeSD executive director Samantha Ollinger, urged the Commission to hold off on approval and instead explore more transit-oriented options, something CalTrans and SANDAG was widely accused of failing to do.

The Cleveland National Forest Foundation, who earlier sued the San Diego Association of Governments over the proposal (story linked above), noted that the projections for a 30-percent increase in traffic over the next 30 years were based on outdated information. The group claims the updated projection is for a 17-percent increase, nearly all of which could be covered by a push to increase peak-period transit use by 15 percent during that time (a goal proposed by the project documents themselves), rendering the proposed expansion unnecessary.

"Sometimes, we feel like the little boy shouting 'The emperor has no clothes!'" said Foundation president Jack Shu. "I certainly feel like that today.

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Comments

aardvark Aug. 14, 2014 @ 5:25 p.m.

If I-5 is widened, it should be with another regular travel lane in each direction and only 1 carpool lane. For that matter, any carpool lane should be available to any traffic after "rush hour".

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Dave Rice Aug. 15, 2014 @ 8:49 a.m.

They already do this in Northern California, and it seems to work - carpool lanes designated for use a few hours in the morning and evening, general use otherwise. But they're not separated from regular traffic or used as a revenue generator so single-occupant vehicles can pay a fee to get around the carpool requirement.

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aardvark Aug. 15, 2014 @ 10:18 a.m.

They shouldn't be separated from regular traffic anyway. Just different lane markings are needed, as that would lower costs for carpool lanes and make them more easily available to use during non rush-hour times.

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AlexClarke Aug. 15, 2014 @ 10:22 a.m.

Several billion dollars and the project would take decades to complete. Who know how obsolete it will be when it is completed and how large will be the ever present cost overruns be?

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jnojr Aug. 15, 2014 @ 3:18 p.m.

I want to see "express lanes" designed to keep traffic moving in them at all times. That means when the rest of the freeway grinds to a halt, keep raising tools so that average speed stays above 55 or so. Twice now, some kind of wreck has closed down part of the 15. What do they do? "Oh, let's open the toll lanes and make them free for everyone!" Result: "Express" lanes are instantly just as clogged as the rest. That's backwards. An obstruction in the open lanes should immediately raise the toll to $12 or $15, whatever is sufficient to keep everyone from crowding it to a standstill. Let us have a choice... stew in traffic for free, or pay a few bucks to move. It isn't my fault that my time is worth more to me than yours is to you, and I don't care if you're angry at how I value my time. It doesn't improve your life to make me stew next to you.

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