In fall 2019, Caltrans, in partnership with the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG) and the City of San Marcos, began the environmental process to evaluate Express Lane Direct Connectors between Interstate 15 (I-15) and State Route 78 (SR 78). The project also proposes to extend the Express Lanes from I-15 for approximately three miles onto SR 78 and construct operational and intersection improvements at Woodland Parkway/Barham Drive.
The project will bring relief to an area of the region that has experienced tremendous residential and job growth over the past 25 years and the improvements are expected to improve connectivity and traffic flow on and between two major travel corridors, increase local access to homes and jobs, and improve overall quality of life in North Inland San Diego County.
The anticipated three-year required environmental review phase is a critical step in evaluating the environmental impacts of a project and ensure compliance with federal, state and local environment laws.
The I-15/SR 78 Express Lanes Direct Connectors Project will:
- Build Express Lanes Direct Connectors between I-15 and SR 78.
- Add three miles of Express Lanes in each direction on SR 78, between the I-15/SR 78 interchange and San Marcos Boulevard.
- Construct a westbound auxiliary lane between Nordahl Road and Woodland Parkway/Barham Drive.
- Relocate the eastbound SR 78 on-ramp from Barham Drive.
- Widen and realign Barham Drive from La Moree Road to Woodland Parkway.
- Widen the Woodland Parkway undercrossing and construct other local road improvements for additional improved operations and access.
- Construct a bike facility on Barham Drive and Woodland Parkway.
Providing more efficient access to this area of the SR 78 corridor is critical, as data shows that more than half of westbound vehicles from the interchange exit within the first three miles to access residential and employment centers. View the project fact sheet here or see the attachment.
The I-15/SR 78 Express Lanes Direct Connectors Projects is expected to benefit the region by:
- Improving Connectivity between I-15 and SR 78 – The project will reduce travel times near the interchange and improve access to nearby residential and employment centers in Escondido, San Marcos and beyond.
- Improving Traffic Flow along I-15 – The project will minimize traffic delays near the interchange for vehicles that rely on the critical north-south I-15 corridor for regional and interregional travel.
- Improving Quality of Life – The project will expand the regional Express Lane system, improve access to transit, and increase overall travel choices that allow people to spend less time in their vehicles.
- Aligning with Regional Goals – By adding to the flexible I-15 Express Lanes system and aligning with the SANDAG long-term “5 Big Moves” Regional Transportation planning strategies, the project will accommodate regional economic and population growth, emerging technology, and evolving visions for the corridor, while reducing per person Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) and Vehicle Hours Traveled (VHT).
The interchange improvements are being coordinated alongside the development of a Comprehensive Multimodal Corridor Plan (CMCP) which will look holistically at integrating and improving all modes of transportation in North Inland San Diego County, and aid in meeting specific greenhouse gas reduction goals, reducing vehicle trips, and further limiting the overall time people spend in the car.
The I-15/SR 78 Express Lanes Direct Connectors project is in the early stages of a three-year environmental review process. The Draft Environmental Impact Report (EIR) is expected to be released for public review and comment in late 2022 and a Final EIR is anticipated in late 2023.
Public Input Opportunities
As part of the three-year process to develop a Final EIR, Caltrans/SANDAG will be establishing and studying project alternatives, evaluating the potential impacts and benefits of each alternative, and soliciting public input and feedback at every step along the way.
Caltrans/SANDAG intend to begin a formal public input process via traditional and virtual engagement opportunities this fall, alongside the release of the project Notice of Preparation (NOP). Please ensure to sign-up for project updates to stay informed on upcoming project milestones and opportunities to provide feedback. Community members may also provide project comments or submit questions to SR78@keepsandiegomoving.com at any time.