We're a long way from 'full speed ahead' on San Diego's freeway system, but billions of dollars worth of construction projects have really started to break up congestion.
It's helped that when it comes to the money chase for federal and state dollars dedicated to freeways and mass transit, San Diego's transportation agencies have been at the front of the pack. Now they're well under way with major improvements, such as managed lanes, which are also known as "zipper lanes."
"I have heard testimony from people when we opened up the first 4-mile segment that their commute was cut from somewhere around 40 minutes to 20 minutes because of the opening of the managed lanes in that new segment from Rancho Bernardo south," said Pedro Orso-Delgade, CalTrans' San Diego district director:
The zipper lanes create more freeway space for southbound traffic in the morning and northbound traffic in the evening. Along with more diamond-lane stretches, they're part of a 24-mile, $500 million project to upgrade I-15.
Another $1.1 billion is going to pay for nearly two dozen other freeway projects throughout the county, such as widening key stretches of Interstate 5. Officials said the rate of spending on local transportation projects has doubled over the past two years, up to about $25 million a month.
"And we expect that trend to continue," Orso-Delgado told local transportation officials and journalists at a news conference Tuesday at Caltrans' district headquarters in Old Town. "In the economic state right now, we're putting jobs out to work."
Result: Commuters are noticing quite a difference between their travel then and now.
"It was just horrible," said Spring Valley resident Annelia Black of commuting to her downtown job in years past. "It was all crammed up, and I couldn't get from one end of the 94 all the way down here to the next end in, I guess, maybe like an hour. So now it takes 20 minutes. So I've noticed a big improvement."
"I think the widening and the shifting of lanes is a great way to deal with the traffic problems," said La Jolla resident Mark Helmuth. "They've done it in other major urban areas where I've lived -- New York, San Francisco -- and it's time they did it here."