Relief Ahead for Some Commuters

Anyone who works in Sorrento Valley or Sorrento Mesa has to battle through one of San Diego's busiest traffic zones to get there.
Now, finally, there's relief on the horizon.
Next week CalTrans is launching a major construction project to ease congestion on that heavily impacted stretch of Interstate 805 and nearby surface streets. In the form of traffic impact fees paid to the city, a leading high-tech firm is footing part of the bill.
I-805 logs a million vehicle trips a week through Sorrento Valley -- tens of thousands a day, exiting at Mira Mesa Boulevard headed for hundreds of high-tech job sites on both sides of the freeway.
"All these companies have major manufacturing plants and R&D labs near here," said Mayor Jerry Sanders at a Wednesday morning ceremony to unveil plans for the project.  "And we want these people working -- not having to sit in traffic."
So CalTrans is installing an HOV lane in each direction of the 805, along with a northerly access ramp linked to an extension of Carroll Canyon Road under the freeway.
Federal stimulus funds will cover most of the $90 million cost, backed by shares from SanDAG and the city of San Diego. Plus, nearly $3 million from Qualcomm, which has 11,000 employees working at dozens of nearby facilities.
The company already is ahead of the corporate curve on deploying shuttles, encouraging ride-sharing, paying mass transit subsidies and scheduling staggered work shifts.
"We're all clustered, really, in a couple of zip codes," notes Qualcomm senior vice president Bill Bold.  "And that means we have to make an investment in alternative transportation, traffic mitigation and partnerships like the one with the city and CalTrans.
"Not only do employees like having a much easier commute to and from work," Bold added, "but many of our employees understand the relationship between traffic congestion and the environment.  It's a major priority for many employees when we go survey them."
For about a year or more during all the construction, motorists will have to pardon CalTrans' dust and detours.
But for the people who work in the Sorrento Valley/Sorrento Mesa area, it's all about keeping their eyes on the prize.
"We just went through the widening of (Interstate) 5," says Kevin Carroll, regional vice president of TechAmerica.  "So we'll take that dust for awhile, as long as that means later on down the road -- so to speak -- that the congestion will be just a little bit less."
According to CalTrans, the project's completion is expected in late 2012 or early 2013.

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