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.