And maybe someday we will find, that it wasn’t really
Oh hoo, ooh, ohh,
Ohh, ooh, mm.
— Eagles “Wasted Time”
With great fanfare, SANDAG in 2012 broke ground for a $41 million road widening project on State Route 78 near Interstate 15 as well as around Nordahl Road “to ease traffic congestions during morning and afternoon commuting hours.”
Guess what? It didn’t work.
If it seems like traffic is going nowhere around SR 78 at Twin Oaks Valley Road during the inappropriately named rush hour, despite completion of the project, guess what, again? Guessed right.
Yet again, the hallowed, and blurred, traffic lines around SR 78 from Nordahl Road through Twin Oaks Valley Road has earned the dubious distinction as worst bottleneck in San Diego County as recognized by Caltrans.
Flash —maybe not the best term — forward to this week’s tale of traffic woe. The latest Caltrans transportation data revealed that drivers and fellow travelers wasted over 475,000 total vehicle hours last year on that darned stretch of San Marcos freeway hell. The state transportation agency based its findings on its Caltrans Performance Measurement System, which uses sensors to monitor traffic statewide.
Let’s take a brief trip through time to the not-so-distant past.
A $41 million project broke ground Feb. 22 (2012) to ease traffic congestion during morning and afternoon commuting hours on SR 78 near I-15. The project involved widening both westbound and eastbound SR 78, as well as replacing the Nordahl Road Bridge.
San Marcos Mayor Jim Desmond, Escondido Mayor Sam Abed, SANDAG Board Chairman and Encinitas Mayor Jerome Stocks, and Caltrans District 11 Acting Director Bill Figge marked the start of the largest component of the project – the bridge replacement – with a groundbreaking ceremony.
“This project is extremely important to North County not only because of the large number of people who will benefit from less traffic congestion, but also for the air quality and safety improvements and overall economic benefits, The project also will improve traffic flow between Escondido and our neighboring city, San Marcos, and prepare for future Express Lanes on SR 78 to improve access to the nearby I-15.”
— Escondido Mayor Sam Abed, breaking ground on the $41 million SR 78 improvement project widening both westbound and eastbound SR 78 as well as replacing the Nordahl Road Bridge.
“This much-needed traffic relief project is welcome news to our residents as well as the thousands of motorists who travel this corridor every day. San Marcos is proud to be a partner in this important project.”
— San Marcos Mayor Jim Desmond at the same SANDAG ceremony.
For the record, the SR 78 bottleneck, which Caltrans defines as “a regularly occurring delay at a specific location due mostly to problems in the roadway design or cars entering the flow of traffic,” has earned top dishonors for two years in a row.
This comes courtesy of the over 475,000 total vehicle hours wasted in the stretch leading past Cal State San Marcos in the last year. But that’s just for our local stretch of the highway to hell scenario. San Diego County drivers from Fallbrook to San Ysidro wasted a total of 22,408 years — YEARS! — in slowed traffic spots along state and federal highways in 2015, according to Caltrans.
On average, county drivers spent an average of 3 1/2 days waiting in traffic, or about 20 minutes each workday.
Caltrans defines bottlenecks as they occur in three time frames: 5 a.m. to 10 a.m. in the morning, noon to 2 p.m. in the mid-afternoon and 3 p.m. to 8 p.m. for the evening.
Caltrans numbers were calculated by multiplying the average delay with the numbers of days in which a bottleneck occurred. Weekends, holidays and areas where bottlenecks occurred less than half of working days were excluded.
The SR 78 improvements that weren’t were funded by a mix of local, state, and federal dollars. TransNet, a regional half-cent sales tax for transportation administered by SANDAG, provided $15.5 million. The City of San Marcos contributed $6.75 million, and the City of Escondido $4.75 million. Caltrans provided $14.1 million through the State Highway Operation and Protection Program.
Considering the pernicious love affair we Californians have with our cars, the traffic snarls we’ve had to suffer for some 30 years seem fitting enough. Back 10 years, I endured the I-15 construction attempt to reduce the morning and evening congestion. Being now fully retired, I can’t testify if that’s been successful or not.
But I should guess, no, it hasn’t been, because:
1. Our zombie officials keep allowing more and more developments for tax revenue, though they know the dire environmental impact on water, sewer, power, traffic, pollution, crime, etc, etc. They’ve forced the re-zoning of rural farmland to residential, and created higher density conundrums. Once upon a time, long long ago, we had horses, cows, and sheep grazing alongside rural roads; vineyards and orange groves as far as the eye could see, but not any more.
When I first came to San Marcos in 1970, SM Blvd had only one traffic signal system. I would guess it now has more than 20 and counting. San Marcos has had the fastest growth for three years running nationwide…a most dubious distinction… and the frantic pace for new housing parallel to that crowded boulevard continues with no end in sight.
2. The simple solution, though not within the capacity of promotion by officials nurturing the popular vote, is a fast mass-transit, mono-rail system along Rts 15, 8 and 5. The former Bostonian that I am would impose a surtax on car ownership (as is the case in Boston proper) to maintain this new rail system, and to induce all San Diego County residents to make use of and demand improvements to its local public transportation.
Alas, common sense and logical reasoning cannot penetrate steely prejudice. We dearly love our cars.
So, we suffer justly without basis for our complaints.
OK, so it failed. When are the barriers going to be removed and the roadway given back to the driving populace. No one knows how to drive thru this supposed “construction” area. For this reason traffic, approaching this off-ramp, slow down, on an average 20-40 miles per hour, no matter the time of day or night.
And when, if ever will we see construction crews at this site? Ever? I personally have not seen any construction for the last six (6) months. And I live at or near Barham road and use this portion of the freeway for weekday work and weekend liesure travel.
Please CalTrans…give us an answer on roadwork completion so that the damn roadway work barriers cna go away, once and for all.