SAN DIEGO (CNS) - Caltrans officials announced Thursday that two new car pool lanes will be built in each direction on Interstate 5 in the North County, but there will be no additional lanes for solo drivers.
Construction is scheduled to begin in 2013 if the project is approved by a variety of state and federal agencies, said Allan Kosup, the director of the Interstate 5 corridor for the agency.
Caltrans studied four proposals before selecting the one with the least impact on the environment and private property, he said. About 60 houses, multi-family residences and businesses are subject to imminent domain purchases for the project, and he said engineers are "fine-tuning" the plan to reduce that number by about 30-35 percent.
"One of the great concerns was how many homes would be affected," Kosup said. "It's a real balancing act,"
The first phase of the project, with a $400 million price tag, will take the one current express lane in each direction from the 805 freeway to Manchester Avenue, and extend it to the north end of Oceanside, according to Kosup.
He said that will take a couple of years, and Caltrans will repeat the process used on a similar project on Interstate 15, in which there were few disruptive lane closures. He also said workers will recycle old freeway materials like they did on the other project.
The second lane will be added in future years, depending on when money is available, he said.
By the time they are done, there will be express lanes from the border to Camp Pendleton.
Kosup said he thinks the plans should satisfy Sen. Christine Kehoe, who led opposition to expansion of the freeway. Kehoe and other opponents favored a balanced approach that emphasizes better public transit.
Among the Caltrans plans for the I-5 corridor:
-- the installation of a second rail track, so more trains can run;
-- putting in transparent sound walls that are not expected to cut into ocean views for residents;
-- creation or improvements to 23 miles of bicycle and walking paths;
-- better drainage to keep water from the freeway from fouling the six lagoons it crosses; and
-- improving the flow of lagoon water from one side of the freeway to the other.
Commuters who drive solo along Interstate 5 should also be pleased with the plans, he said.
"I think the express lanes benefit all users," Kosup said. "We saw that when we closed the express lanes on Interstate 15."
Those lanes were shut down for nine days last month so workers could make improvements, drastically increasing commute times.
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