By Ana Gomez Salcido
The California Transportation Commission (CTC) approved to allocate $103.7 million to the San Diego region to extend carpool lanes on Interstate 5 (I-5) and add a second track to a portion of the coastal rail line in North San Diego County.
The funding will enable the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG) and the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) to begin construction on a $700 million package of projects.
One of these projects is to expand travel choices by extending the carpool lanes on I-5 from Lomas Santa Fe Drive to State Route 78. Another project focuses on increasing the efficiency and reliability of the rail corridor with two double tracking projects across the San Elijo and Batiquitos Lagoons.
Construction is scheduled to begin in late 2016. The projects comprise the first phase of the North Coast Corridor Program, a $6 billion investment in infrastructure and environmental improvements along the coast between La Jolla and Oceanside over the next 30 years.
“This transportation corridor is among the most important assets in our region,” said SANDAG Chair and San Diego County Board of Supervisors Chair, Ron Roberts. “Once again, we are pleased that by combining state funding with our local TransNet half-cent sales tax, we are able to move forward with much needed improvements that provide congestion relief and enhanced rail services. The vote by the CTC demonstrates the importance of having a dedicated local source of funding to leverage outside dollars to get key regional infrastructure built.”
Approximately 25 percent of the North Coast Corridor program funding will come from TransNet, the voter-approved, half-cent sales tax for local transportation projects, which is administered by SANDAG.
“The CTC vote marks a pivotal milestone for the North Coast Corridor Program and moves us closer to the start of construction,” said Caltrans I-5 Corridor Director, Allan Kosup. “We look forward to beginning construction on the first set of transportation and environmental enhancements near Encinitas later this year.”
To date, 67 percent of the coastal rail corridor in San Diego County has been double tracked. About $1 billion of rail improvement projects are under development or planned in the corridor over the next few decades, with the goal of fully double tracking the entire 60-mile stretch of the rail corridor within the county.