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Final phase of state Route 56 to begin construction

One of North County's most anticipated freeways is scheduled to break ground this summer. The final phase of state Route 56, the east-west freeway, will connect North County coastal cities to inland cities, saving motorists time on the roadways.

This long-awaited freeway segment will link Interstates 15 and 5, providing the only such freeway between state Routes 78 and 52. Caltrans has already constructed several miles of the route, at each end of I-5 and I-15.

Working with the city of San Diego, construction crews from both agencies are building this landmark freeway. The city's section of the project from just east of Black Mountain Road to Camino Ruiz interchange is scheduled to be complete in the fall of this year. Improvements by others are being done as part of the development in the area.

The overall five-mile new freeway alignment from Carmel Valley to Rancho Penasquitos will be initially constructed as a four-lane freeway, and will include the completion of the interchange at Black Mountain Road and a bike path running adjacent to the project.

The complete project will consist of a six-lane freeway with a median that would allow for either additional mixed flow lanes, High Occupancy Vehicle (or carpool) lanes or future transit. Two interchanges located at Camino Santa Fe and Camino Ruiz will be added.

Many people in the area have called the state Route 56 project the most environmentally conscious freeway in the area. It is called that because the freeway will be located near a watershed that empties into a protected and beloved lagoon. The highway design, as well as the construction crews, will be working closely with all the resource agencies.

"It has been rather challenging to link two very distinct communities through one of San Diego County's most environmentally-sensitive areas," said Caltrans Project Manager Joe Hull. "In the end, however, this freeway will provide a major link in the regional transportation network called the outer loop."

Commuters and residents on Black Mountain Road, Mira Mesa Boulevard, Miramar Road and Del Dios Highway should see a considerable reduction of traffic congestion. Commuters who use these streets to cross from freeway to freeway will also reduce their out-of-direction travel.

"With all the recent commercial and residential development just off Route 56 near Sorrento Valley Road and the planned residential growth near Black Mountain Road and Ted Williams Parkway, it is obvious that this area is going to continue to grow," Hull said.

Caltrans traffic studies have estimated by the year 2020 between 84,000 and 120,000 vehicles a day will travel this section of highway depending on land use and development within the Pacific Highlands Ranch and Torrey Highlands Planned Urbanizing Areas.

The freeway is scheduled to be open to traffic in the summer of 2004. The estimated cost of the project is $170 million including property acquisition and construction. The project is funded by a combination of state, San Diego Association of Governments, county and city sources, along with funding from the Governors' Traffic Congestion Relief Program (TCRP). The $5.3 billion program is the single largest general fund investment in transportation in state history. The TCRP has helped fund 141 projects statewide.

Manning and Estrada are public information officers at Caltrans.

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