The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans), the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG) and the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) recently announced the opening of the final phase of the I-15 Express Lanes Project. The $1 billion "freeway within a freeway" was constructed in three phases and features 20 miles of four-lane express lanes in the median of I-15 from State Rte. 163 in San Diego to State Rte. 78 in Escondido.
"Until recently, average traffic delays along the corridor added upwards of 45 minutes to commute times," said Acting Caltrans Director Malcolm Dougherty. "Today's opening marks an improvement for San Diego-area travelers in this vital corridor."
The new express lanes can be reconfigured to accommodate traffic demands in both directions, by using moveable concrete barriers. The lanes are free to transit, carpools, vanpools, motorcycles and permitted clean-air vehicles. For a fee, single-occupant vehicles can travel in the lanes using the FasTrak electronic tolling system.
"Today we dedicate a major piece of a modern new freeway system for San Diego County," said SANDAG Chair and Encinitas Mayor Jerome Stocks. "Our goal at SANDAG is to build similar lanes on the freeway system throughout the region, creating a network of Express Lanes within the already existing freeway corridors, thereby giving the traveling public additional choices."
A new bus rapid transit system is expected to open in early 2013 to encourage motorists to leave their vehicles at home and use transit instead. The new service will provide high-frequency transit bus service to and from inland northern San Diego County to downtown San Diego and will be the first of its kind in the region.
The project received $286 million in funding from Proposition 1B, the 2006 voter-approved transportation bond that is investing a total of $19.9 billion in roads, bridges, ports and transit. To date, nearly $12 billion in Proposition 1B funds have been allocated by administrative agencies for statewide transportation needs.
"This project helped put people to work and strengthened the economy in the San Diego area," said Federal Highway Administrator Victor Mendez. "More lanes mean less congestion, so residents will spend less time in their cars and more time doing things they enjoy … and a year earlier than planned!"