The wheels are turning toward a smoother commute on Interstate 5 as SANDAG breaks ground Friday on a stretch of new carpool lanes in the north county.
It’s the start of a three-year construction project to alleviate traffic.
Anyone traveling on I-5 between Encinitas and Carlsbad knows it’s a nightmare during rush hour.
“This whole stretch of the freeway here will end up getting really, really packed," Andres Chavez said.
Right now, the carpool lane heading north on I-5 ends at Manchester Avenue.
“The traffic on the coast is backing up as it is,” Patrick McCarroll said. “There's no good way to get to and from work now."
The new construction will add 8 miles of carpool lanes in each direction between Manchester Avenue and Palomar Airport — 16 miles in total.
The current stretch between Encinitas and Carlsbad currently has four lanes of traffic, the carpool lane will be the fifth.
Once it’s finished, “you're going to have carpools, HOV lanes in the median area," Caltrans director Laurie Berman said.
The near future, however, could mean more brake lights.
The construction of the new carpool lanes will happen over two stages.
In Stage 1, crews will work in the median.
In Stage 2, with the median complete, crews will start widening the sides of the freeway.
During both stages, existing lanes will be narrowed, creating less space for drivers who will be urged to slow down. The project will likely create more traffic in the short run.
"It'll be a little pain for a few years but, in the end, I think it'll be a big win for all," Carlsbad Mayor Matt Hall said.
The carpool lane construction is part of the larger North Coast Corridor Program and will cost roughly $250 million, most of it coming from SB1, the transportation funding bill signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown in April 2017.
“It should allow people to travel north and south on the freeway without running into so many bottlenecks," Encinitas Mayor Catherine Blakespear said.
Drivers seemed receptive to the long-term benefits, they just hope it helps.
"I drive a lot in L.A.,” Jeff Scott said. “There's carpool lanes in L.A. that are just as jam-packed all the other lanes."
Once this project is completed, the next phase of freeway widening will begin with additional carpool lanes added between Palomar Airport Road and state Route 78.