COMMENTARY | COLUMNISTS | JIM SCHMIDT

Passage of legislation to stop widening of I-5 will increase traffic congestion

Traffic on Interstate 5 continues to increase and SANDAG has approved a plan to increase the number of northbound lanes to help relieve current and future congestion. SANDAG understands that our region's growth will continue and includes a large increase in residents over age 65.

It is unfortunate that State Sen. Christine Kehoe has introduced SB 468 in Sacramento to stop the widening of I-5, which is in the SANDAG and CalTrans plans to relieve traffic congestion. The legislation just passed the Senate Natural Resources Committee and will be heard at the Senate Transportation Committee on May 3. Due to strong opposition, Kehoe has added an amendment that would put the I-5 widening and transit on the same level. Opposition is continuing because the legislation still interferes with the widening of I-5.

With SANDAG, which is known as the best transportation planning agency in California, and CalTrans District 11, which is known as the best one of the 12 districts in the state, San Diego has been blessed with great work in transportation. The senator has done some good things for our region in the past. Let's hope she will drop the bill and team up with SANDAG and CalTrans and help reduce traffic congestion.

It is well known that I-5 traffic to the north is the worst traffic congestion in San Diego County. Recently, SANDAG approved the extension of the Blue Line transit trolley from Old Town to the north through Clairemont, University City and to the UTC area, where the University of California, San Diego campus is located. The trolley extension is an example how SANDAG works hard to help both road and public transportation needs.

One of the traffic problems for transportation in San Diego's North City and North County is the continual opposition to local road connections, which would relieve traffic congestion on Interstates 5, 805 and 15. Result: Many drivers take freeways for short rides instead of local roads. At the recent SANDAG Board meeting where the I-5 widening was approved some of the opponents to local road connections were there to also oppose the project. This is an opposite situation for our region's east-west freeways state Route 52, I-8 and SR-94. The eastern areas of the cities and unincorporated areas have six major east-west roads that keep people off freeways (Mission Gorge Road, which ties into Friars Road; Broadway in El Cajon which ties into Fletcher Parkway; El Cajon Boulevard; University, Market and Imperial avenues). Those roads work well and reduce freeway traffic to and from eastern areas and with less traffic congestion, unlike the situation in northern county areas.

A key reason to add more lanes on I-5, as proposed and planned by SANDAG and CalTrans, is that it is not just local traffic that is involved. I-5 carries traffic from Los Angeles, Orange County, etc., going through San Diego to the south including all types of traffic to and from Mexico. This heavy traffic will continue.

I remember well when our region had more of a team-effort that resulted in the development of Harbor and Shelter islands in San Diego Bay and SeaWorld, Fiesta Island, Vacation Island and several hotels in Mission Bay. Why can't we go back to those days and get people working together? Those projects were part of the two bays while I-5 is almost entirely inland until just past Solana Beach.

I am a transit supporter and a rider. I often take the Orange Line trolley to go downtown and also the Green Line to go through Mission Valley a lot to go to meetings and to attend events including attendance at Chargers, Aztecs and Padres games. I know that SANDAG and Caltrans will go all out to support transit projects in north areas like the recent approval of the Blue Line trolley extension from Old Town to the UTC area.

So let's get together, oppose the senator's amended bill, which still interferes with the I-5 widening, and urge that the senator sit down with SANDAG and CalTrans and work on positive solutions.

Our San Diego region has a lot of needs and teamwork is the need for solutions is a must. Our San Diego region's great planning has labeled us "America's finest City." Working together is a key reason.


Schmidt is a retired banker and attorney who is active with the chamber of commerce and in civic affairs in transportation, housing and sports. He also serves on two public boards and was Gov. Reagan's appointee to three positions in state government.

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