How was I-5 traffic this summer?

SANDAG plan moves forward to widen 27 miles of interstate

On August 13, with the unprecedented support of all six cities between San Diego and Oceanside, the California Coastal Commission gave the green light to SANDAG’s long-term plan to widen I-5.

After the unanimous vote by the commission, SANDAG announced last week it would begin the first phase of the project. At an estimated cost of $600 million, the I-5’s carpool lanes will be extended north from Cardiff’s Manchester Avenue to Oceanside’s Harbor Drive.

SANDAG’s plan calls for eventually widening the 27 miles of North County freeway that is now labeled the most congested in San Diego County.

This summer’s weekend slow ’n’ go traffic into San Diego on I-5 began around mid-morning each Saturday and continued through the late afternoon. Southbound traffic would start backing up anywhere from Oceanside north, but sometimes as far up as San Clemente or San Juan Capistrano.

The county fair and horse racing at Del Mar didn’t help traffic flow, but southbound traffic would break free at the fairgrounds exit, Via de la Valle, where the southbound carpool lane begins and Caltrans has installed a fifth lane for off- and on-ramp transition.

Sunday’s return commute north on I-5 into Orange County would begin sometimes as far south as Carmel Valley at around 3:00 p.m. It would remain slow through North County and continued into the evening hours.

The widening project will take a decade or two to be complete, as it also integrates all transportation modalities; cars, car pools, buses, trains. and bicycles — even pedestrian crossings over lagoons.

Transportation planners will also use the widening project to correct the lack of environmental wisdom used when building the “scrape and straight” freeways in the 1960s, over the six lagoons that dot coastal North County.

The newly reopened I-15 through Rancho Bernardo is the best example of what planners have in mind for the I-5, with the additional commuter train component that is expected to increase to 100 trains a day.

I-15 was the most congested freeway up until its widening project from Highway 78 to the 163. Now the inbound commute is usually trouble- and traffic-free. SANDAG says the new I-15 is “the most innovative highway in San Diego County.”

At previous public-input meetings held by SANDAG and Caltrans, there have been two types of opponents to the I-5 plan. One group doesn’t want any widening at all, hoping to force motorists out of cars and into public transit; the others want the freeway widened yesterday and don’t want to wait 15 years for the integration of public transit systems and carpool lanes.

Historical footnote: Governor Jerry Brown’s father, former Gov. Edmund G. “Pat” Brown (1959–1966), is credited with instituting the federal government's massive interstate-building program. He helped Southern California become the car capital of the world.

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That pattern of weekend traffic has been present for at least five years now. You didn't mention that it starts on Friday, and it is one that knows no season, although it gets more severe during summer. For a long time, I blamed all that Friday and Saturday southbound traffic on Angelenos headed to northern Baja. But we are told that the TJ/Rosarito tourist traffic was way down in recent years, so that doesn't seem to be the reason. We can assume that the traffic is tourism-related and that the guests are staying in local lodging, and going to local tourist attractions.

I'm not sure about your historical footnote. The federal interstate highway system was due to a package of laws passed in 1956, before Pat Brown was governor. The feds "wrapped the system in the flag", with the word defense in the title of the legislation. Actually, while it had some value for rapid movement of the armed forces around the nation in event of attack or war, it was more a creature of the trucking lobby. It enabled far faster movement of long-haul trucks than ever before, and changed railroading in the US in many unforeseen ways.

So Cal, as in LA and Orange County, was already building freeways at local and state expense. Before the interstates ever were conceived, LA had the Pasadena Freeway (now part of I-110), the Harbor Freeway (the rest of I-110), the Hollywood Freeway (Highway 101), some of the Ventura Freeway (101), and the Santa Ana Freeway was complete at least as far as that city in OC (now I-5). Then there was the San Bernardino Freeway (I-10). Brown, like any state politician was all for the interstate system because suddenly the feds were picking up 90% of the total construction cost, a far bigger share than they had ever before contributed. And the state wanted as much interstate construction as the feds would approve. OC made its build-out dependent upon hundreds of miles of freeways. There's a lot more that could be said about all that.

"For a long time, I blamed all that Friday and Saturday southbound traffic on Angelenos headed to northern Baja." - I've always thought that too, visiting family in Baja on weekends is an important part for many in the Mexican-American culture.

I have to ask Visduh - Are you me? Do I have an alternate personality that comes out and gets on-line in the middle of the night? You are the only person that knows the same stuff I do. The Pasadena Fwy? 90% of funding came from the FEDS? The whole "defense" hwy angle? I sincerely hope that if I'm ever in the field on a story, that you ID yourself. It would be a pleasure to meet you.

Likewise. There's a way for us to connect, and I'll activate it soon.

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