Caltrans recently held a groundbreaking ceremony to mark the beginning of construction on the Interstate 5/Genesee Avenue Interchange Project, which will replace the existing six-lane overpass with a 10-lane structure to improve traffic flow.
Caltrans District 11 Director Laurie Berman called the project “long overdue” when she spoke to an audience of civic leaders, stakeholders and media at the groundbreaking Feb. 13. The ceremony was held atop the Scripps Memorial Hospital parking structure overlooking the Genesee Avenue interchange.
“The Golden Triangle is home to some of the region’s largest and most high-profile employers, including the University of California San Diego, Scripps Health, Qualcomm and the Veterans Affairs Medical Center,” Berman said. “Businesses in this area employ about 130,000 workers. As the area developed and became a major center of employment, it is not surprising that it has also become one of the more heavily congested areas in the region.”
Other speakers at the groundbreaking ceremony included Caltrans Director Malcolm Dougherty, SANDAG Chairman Jack Dale, San Diego City Council President Sherri Lightner and San Diego County Supervisor and SANDAG Vice Chairman Ron Roberts.
The I-5/Genesee Avenue Interchange Project aims to improve east and west traffic along Genesee Avenue and enhance access to and from I-5. The widened overpass also will include bike and pedestrian lanes. Additionally, the project will widen the freeway access ramps, add auxiliary lanes on I-5 between Genesee Avenue and Roselle Street and construct a new, separated bike path on the west side of the freeway that will connect Sorrento Valley to the UCSD area.
Commuters can expect some intermittent traffic delays and limited bike and pedestrian access during the construction, but most lane closures will take place overnight. Access to nearby hospitals will be maintained throughout construction, according to Caltrans.
Caltrans awarded the $64 million contract to Flatiron West Inc. for the construction of the project. Work is under way on the first of five stages of construction.
The first stage consists of construction prep work, and clearing and grubbing at the site. The next stage, which includes widening the road and bridge, will begin in early March. The entire project will take about three years to complete.
The total project cost is estimated at $105.2 million. It is fully funded through a combination of federal, state and regional TransNet revenue sources. Federal funding amounts to $47.9 million, the city of San Diego put in $22.9 million, the state provided $21 million in funding, SANDAG supplied $11.7 million and UCSD contributed $1.7 million.
Caltrans Director Dougherty and SANDAG Chairman Dale both stressed that the I-5/Genesee Avenue Interchange Project was just one piece of a much larger puzzle that aims to be a multimodal transportation solution to the increasingly affected area.
“When we get to 2050 and we are all done, you will be able to take the trolley on the Midcoast route up to the hospital,” Dale said at the groundbreaking. “We’re putting two more lanes on the 5 each way, there will be a bicycle lane on there, and when we’re all done, we will have grown by a million people, we’ll have 500,000 more jobs, 400,000 more houses and the air will be cleaner, and your commute will be faster.”
SANDAG and Caltrans are working together to bring additional transit improvements to the area, including a new bridge at Gilman Drive, linking UCSD campus roads on both sides of I-5. Construction on the Gilman Drive Bridge Project will begin in early 2016.
A project scheduled to begin construction in fall 2016 will widen Voigt Drive on the UCSD campus from two to four lanes, and replace the Voigt Drive Bridge with a wider bridge that includes sidewalks and bike lanes.
Another major project would extend the trolley 11 miles from Old Town to UCSD and University City. The Mid-Coast Corridor Transit Project is set to begin in 2016.
“[The I-5 / Genesee Avenue Interchange] project is a good example of that motivation to invest in transportation appropriately and improve mobility, and it’s really all about advancing and enhancing the economy and quality of life,” Dougherty said.
-Klam is a San Diego-based freelance writer.