Dysfunction at I-5/Sorrento Valley Junction: Long-Term Relief May Involve Railway Fix

Traffic snarls at the I-5/I-805 merge have experts scratching their heads and asking for more time to find a solution for commuters

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Traffic congestion through the Interstate 5 commuter bottleneck at Sorrento Valley Road won't be easing up any time soon. NBC 7's Gene Cubbison reports on why.

    Traffic congestion through the Interstate 5 commuter bottleneck at Sorrento Valley Road won't be easing up any time soon.

    After six years of studies, city-retained consultants are asking for more time to explore possible solutions.

    They’ve already looked at dozens of ways of unsnarling rush-hour backups on I-5 and at 40 intersections on surface streets, and now they say only two “potentially viable” alternatives are left.

    City officials told NBC 7 those options likely will require moving the COASTER station to the north or south of its current location at the northwest corner Sorrento Valley Road and Sorrento Valley Boulevard intersection. They would also have to build a rail overcrossing above the intersection.

    After all, the rail line not only contributes mightily to major delays at the intersection, but also increases the cost and logistics of escape routes that would necessitate flyover ramps.

    "You know, when the train stops here, we're talking 15 minutes to come up a block,” said Jeff Jackson, an attorney who works in an office mall at the southeast corner of that main intersection. “And I've been late to work by 15 minutes when I would have been on time because the train stopped, and the traffic just doesn't keep moving."

    That traffic averages around 20,000 vehicle trips on weekdays and is projected to double by the year 2030.

    Thousands of workers at hundreds of businesses in the valley are affected.

    So are residents of nearby suburban neighborhoods such as Pacific Ridge and countless drivers on I-5 and even I-805.

    It's probably a wonder the place hasn't become a hotbed of road rage.

    "There's definitely a lot of people trying to pass each other, going outside of their lanes to go around and go straight, where people are trying to turn,” said Alex Skirvin, who works for a biomedical firm west of the railroad tracks . “So there's a lot of horn-honking that goes on."

    Said Robert Pontecorvo Jr., whose Hozho Health & Welfare clinic is a neighbor of Jackson’s law office: "I do an acupuncture business where people try to stay calm. But more people are stressed out coming in. So it's a little hectic.”

    He added, with a wry smile: “Makes for good business, though."

    Given the pace of continuing commercial and industrial development on many streets that lack outlets to wider thoroughfares, Sorrento Valley workers can only keep praying for prompt work-arounds.

    "If they're doing all this research and spending all this money on it, they should be able to change it at least a little bit,” said Gianna Wright, a colleague of Skirvin’s. “There's so many more businesses coming up here. Our company actually just opened another building on this street. There's lots going on here. It's not something I think should be neglected."

    The consulting firm, AECOM Technical Services, is asking the city to extend its six-year, $3 million contract, which expires next month.

    The experts only want more time -- not money – to completely evaluate the concept of an above-grade rail crossing over Sorrento Valley’s main intersection, coupled with relocation of the COASTER station.

    Otherwise, Jackson said, "You'd need to go back and rebuild the way the streets are done and the place the train crosses and how traffic gets on the 5. And that's not something they can just fix, unless they want to go back and rebuild all the roads."