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A Kinder, Gentler Road?

A 27-mile stretch of Interstate 5 between La Jolla and Oceanside is shaping up to be a battleground between those who want a 14-lane mega-freeway and those who don’t. Caltrans bills the project, which could cost up to $4.5 billion over 20 years, as kinder and gentler than a typical freeway expansion.

The project is carpool- and transit-friendly — including a freeway-within-a-freeway with two high-occupancy vehicle lanes in each direction, plus access to ramps for bus riders and carpoolers. It includes plans to enhance the environment with public art and water-quality improvements.

“The project’s giving us the opportunity to do some enhancements in lagoons and leave the corridor better than when we got there,” says I-5 czar Allan Kosup, director of the project for Caltrans. “It’s a different approach to highway construction 
— community-sensitive and resource-sensitive.”

But several groups are not convinced. Formed just to fight the expansion, I-5 PLAGUE (Prevent the Los Angeles Gridlock from Usurping Our Environment) says the proposed project “fails to consider transit alternatives, will permanently damage our beautiful coastal communities as well as the entire region, and cause significant damage to our environment and our health.” Joining the cause are the Sierra Club, Save Our Forests, the Cleveland National Forest Foundation, the Torrey Pines Community Planning Board and Citizens Against Freeway Expansion.

Kosup says the project must address all the “conflicting purposes” of the scenic corridor, which crosses six coastal lagoons that are home to endangered species. “There’s certainly a lot of concerns...coastal views, noise, endangered species in lagoons. Those types of coastal lagoons are getting rarer and rarer. We’ve got a lot of conflicting purposes and impacts, and we just need to balance all of those.”
Construction could start as soon as 2013 on the first phase.

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