SOLANA BEACH (CNS) - Construction on the first phase of a $6 billion, 40- year makeover of the North County coastal transportation corridor kicked off Tuesday with a goal of reducing traffic congestion and enhancing the environment.
Known as "Build NCC," the initial phase includes $700 million of transportation, public access and environmental improvements in Solana Beach, Encinitas and Carlsbad.
Among the projects are creating 14 miles of carpool lanes on Interstate 5 between Solana Beach and northern Carlsbad, building 2.25 miles of new double- rail tracks across the San Elijo and Batiquitos lagoons, and making four highway and rail bridges across the lagoons.
"Today represents an important day for not only the region, but California," said Caltrans Director Malcolm Dougherty.
"Build NCC provides an example of Caltrans' commitment to build projects that provide new transportation choices while protecting the environment and livability of adjacent communities," Dougherty said. "This collaborative effort will serve as a model for future projects in California and beyond."
Other first-phase projects are extending the North Coast bike trail for 10 miles, adding 10 sound walls to shield freeway-area residents from noise, preserving 200 acres of coastal habitat and restoring the San Elijo Lagoon. The new highway and rail bridges are expected to improve tidal flow in the lagoon, according to Caltrans.
"And this is just the beginning," said Supervisor Ron Roberts, the chairman of the San Diego Association of Governments. "When the full NCC program is completed, we will have constructed 27 miles of new express lanes and bike and pedestrian paths, double-tracked 97 percent of the rail corridor and enhanced and/or preserved hundreds of acres of our coastal habitat."
Transportation officials said Interstate 5 handles more than 700,000 daily trips, including commuters, goods movement, visitors and users of recreational venues.