AUGUST 13 HEARING TO CONSIDER WIDENING OF I-5

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North Coast Corridor Public Works Plan/Transportation and Resource Enhancement Program has “dire consequences to public health, climate change, and coastal integrity” says Duncan McFetridge, Cleveland National Forest Foundation co-director

East County News Service

August 10, 2014 (San Diego)--The Cleveland National Forest Foundation (CNFF) has sent a formal request to the California Coastal Commission to postpone project approval for the North Coast Corridor Public Works Plan/Transportation and Resource Enhancement Program (PWP/TREP). This project would expand and widen areas of Interstate 5 between La Jolla and Oceanside.

McFetridge has long contended that transit problems encouraging sprawl anywhere in the county puts added pressure on forests in the inland regions.

A hearing is scheduled for August 13 at 9 a.m. at the Catamaran Resort,3999 Mission Blvd.  in San Diego. Duncan McFetridge, the director of the CNFF, stated, “a hierarchy of deficiencies fatally undermines the integrity of the final report on the North Coast Corridor project.”

Public Works Plan submitted by Caltrans and SANDAG as part of NCC PWP/TREP comprises  a 40 year program of rail, highway, transit, bicycle, pedestrian and coastal resource improvements spanning 27 miles of Northern San Diego County coastal zone from La Jolla north to Oceanside.

Deficiencies in the plan, according to McFetridge, include:

  • The program EIR governing this project, (SANDAG’s EIR for the 2050 Regional Transportation Plan or RTP), was invalidated by the Superior Court for failing to analyze compliance with Governor Schwarzenegger’s Executive Order EO-03-05 regarding State reduction targets for greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.
  • SANDAG’s 2050 plan which, if properly analyzed, would have revealed to the public a 700% increase in emissions when compared to the reduction targets set by EO-03-05.
  • SANDAG also failed to evaluate mitigation measures to avoid those impacts.
  • Missing also in the 2050 RTP program EIR was an evaluation of the serious regional health impacts due to vehicle air pollution.
  • Nowhere is a correction of program level failures or completion of promised impacts studies. Instead, the project EIR for the I-5 widening repeats those very same program level failures by not properly evaluating the massive increase in GHG, by not analyzing the health impacts of increased vehicular travel, by not properly analyzing the need for the project and by not providing an alternative to avoid these impacts.

According to McFetridge, “the structural deficiencies outlined in the State Smart Transportation Institute report appear to have gone completely unheeded by Caltrans in their processing of the I-5 project and add an even heavier weight on the program and project level EIR failures that burden the North Coast Corridor project.”

McFetridge pointed out that the California Coastal Commission has, as its expressed duty, to protect the coastline of the State of California.

“We request that the Commission defer any further consideration of the Public Works Plan until such time as Caltrans corrects the EIR deficiencies and properly models the ability of passenger rail service levels to meet the travel demand within the study area corridor. Notwithstanding the public’s request that Caltrans and the CTC analyze a transit-based alternative, neither agency has considered upgrading the intercity and commuter passenger rail service that operates in the corridor.”

McFetridge said that not one agency has taken the time to study the threat to public health that will accompany an expanded I-5 freeway.

“It is the duty of public officials to consider alternatives that would avoid, lessen or mitigate significant environmental impacts,” he concludes.” We question how the Commission is able to perform its legal duty to protect the public’s health and the environment without the knowledge of whether less damaging alternatives exist to meeting transportation demand along the North Coast corridor. “We again remind the Commission of its Proposition 20 mandate and respectfully request that it take no further action on the PWP until it evaluates the feasibility of transit to achieve the North Coast Corridor’s travel demand.”