Traffic along Interstate 805 and Interstate 5 in San Diego’s South Bay seems to be worsening by the day, leaving commuters frustrated, but some solutions to alleviate the congestion are in the works.
Caltrans and SANDAG say there are a couple of reasons why traffic has gotten worse in the South Bay over the years. First off, gas prices have dropped, which gives people less of an incentive to use public transportation. Secondly, the economy has gotten better, which means more people are getting up and driving to work in the morning.
And, the agencies say that perhaps the biggest contributor to the growing traffic troubles is where jobs are located for South Bay residents. Places like Chula Vista are rich with housing, but there aren't many jobs there, so many South Bay residents have to drive to downtown, Sorrento Valley or the UTC area where the jobs are.
Another factor contributing to traffic in the area is increased border trade, which is great for our economy but also leads to more jams on South Bay freeways.
Caltrans and SANDAG told NBC 7 there are several projects in the works to curb the problem on the South Bay roadways, but drivers will not see much relief yet – at least not in the near future.
So far, the agencies have added HOV lanes to I-805 and improved the trolley station, making it quicker to get on and off the trolley. The I-805 and State Route 905 interchange has also been improved.
Starting early next year, SANDAG will begin construction on the South Bay rapid project that will provide rapid bus service along a 21-mile route from the Otay Mesa Port of Entry to downtown San Diego. Bus service on that project is expected to start in 2018.
Then there's a bigger, more comprehensive $204 billion countywide project approved by SANDAG last month, which stretches over 35 years and calls for 160 miles of managed freeway lanes, five new trolley lines and 32 new bus route lines.
However, since this massive project spans over decades, critics say people in the South Bay won't see any major benefits from the plan until 20 years from now.
That's why SANDAG Executive Director Gary Gallegos says they're trying to provide people with a variety of options, because there is no perfect or quick solution.
In terms of alleviating the traffic linked to border trade, Caltrans and SANDAG say they plan to build a third border crossing just east of Otay Mesa.
Mexico is the third largest trading partner of the United States, behind China and Canada, and about 7 percent of all U.S.-Mexico trade happens at the Otay Mesa Port of Entry in south San Diego.
Caltrans and SANDAG say this third border crossing will serve both personal and commercial cars, with the goal of reducing crossing wait times to 20 minutes or less in the area.