by Marva Bledsoe, Business and Community Political Action Committee (BACPAC)
The junction at Interstate 5 and Highway (SR) 78 is a frequent cause of frustration for those who must make the transition from one of these major highways to the other. Traffic signals, dangerous transitions from city streets to a freeway and challenging merges from one highway to another are all part of the nightmare of this interchange. Commuters, residents and visitors alike are eager for a solution to this problem. But where are we in getting relief to the bottleneck.
Caltrans acknowledges that the lack of a direct freeway-to-freeway connection presents a problem at the interchange. On its website, Caltrans reports they are evaluating concepts to improve the situation. Included are:
--Adding direct freeway-to-freeway connectors from southbound I-5 to westbound SR 78 and westbound SR 78 to southbound I-5;
--Building direct access ramps that connect to future carpool and transit vehicle lanes on I-5 and SR 78; and
--Reconfiguration of the existing interchange to accommodate the new connections outlined above.
At a recent meeting of the Oceanside Chamber of Commerce’s Emerging Issues Committee, Oceanside Deputy Mayor Chuck Lowery provided an update on the status of the Caltrans plans for the I5/SR 78 interchange.
The Deputy Mayor indicated that the State has decided to split the widening of I5 and the I5/SR78 interchange into two separate projects. This will allow the I5/SR78 project to move along faster as it will involve an Environment Impact Report (EIR) only for the Buena Vista Lagoon. The widening of I5 will require EIRs on all the lagoons along the I5 corridor which will be a lengthy process.
Deputy Mayor Lowery commented on the 4 scenarios for the interchange that have been presented to the public but indicated that there were 17 more potential solutions being reviewed by Caltrans. He reported that the 4 scenarios presented to the public all include “fly over” ramps to transition from one freeway to the other. The 4 scenarios presented are as follows:
Scenario A: This plan provides northbound and southbound High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) connectors and maintains the current configuration of Vista Way.
Scenario B: This strategy proposes a direct contact ramp from southbound I5 to eastbound SR78. It removes the Park-and-Ride lot at SR 78 and Vista Way. This scenario also removes the northbound I5 on-ramp from eastbound SR 78.
Scenario C: This approach add direct connect ramps and creates new direct access ramps to High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lanes. This solution maintains the current configuration of Vista Way.
Scenario D: With this proposal, direct connect ramps are added and new direct access ramps to High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lanes from both freeways. This approach also maintains the current configuration of Vista Way.
Deputy Mayor Lowery indicated that are no firm dates as to when the final decision will be made by Caltrans as to which scenario best suits the needs of the project and to when the project will begin. Firm cost estimates have not yet been brought forth according to the Deputy Mayor.
The Emerging Issues Committee meets on the first Thursday of each month at 8:00am at the Oceanside Chamber of Commerce. The Committee studies issues that impact our businesses and/or our community. The I5/SR78 interchange is just one of the items currently under discussion.