Freeway & Lagoon Updates


Major highway, rail, bike and lagoon improvements in North County, all of which are expected to cost an estimated $700 million, are currently underway, with many of these projects taking place in Cardiff.  In the planning stages since 2001, these massive public works projects are believed to be the biggest ever in Cardiff. Final completion is scheduled some time in 2021.


Rendering of the future I-5 bridge over San Elijo Lagoon, photo credit SANDAG

One of the most noticeable parts of these multi-phase projects is at the I-5/Manchester Ave. interchange.  In this area, the freeway is being widened on each side to allow for more car pool lanes.  While this first phase of freeway improvements is expected to be finished in about 3 years, according to Caltrans project manager Arturo Jacobo, the second phaseof the I-5 project, which will add a second high occupancy vehicle lane  (HOV) from La Jolla Village Dr. to Oceanside, will not be completed for another 17 years.  “From the Coastal-Commission we have the blueprint approval for the entire 27 miles that includes the highway, the rail, the community improvements and bike lanes for the next 40 years”, Jacobo said.

While the start of phase two is not currently funded and has no start date, phase one is well underway with construction funded by Federal dollars and local TransNet money.  In 2004 local voters approved a half-cent sales tax for local transportation improvements known as TransNet.

Also included as part of the freeway project is a new park-and-ride transit center which will be located at the Manchester Ave. and I-5 interchange, in the Northeast corner. According to Jacobo, phase one of the highway project is estimated to cost $480 million.


As a condition of the infrastructure improvements, the San Elijo lagoon is undergoing restoration which will include enhancement of the lagoon’s wetlands and upland areas while allowing for improved tidal flushing and beach sand replenishment. There is currently a dredge working around the clock in the lagoon putting sand into a pipe that will carry it to Cardiff State Beach and Fletcher Cove. This large diameter pipe is visible under the Cardiff reef bridge.  The lagoon restoration project is expected to be done in early 2019 with a projected cost of $80 million.


SANDAG rendering of new double tracked rail bridge

In between Cardiff State Beach and the lagoon sits the railroad right of way, which is also getting an overhaul. Here, a second rail line, commonly known as double-tracking, is under construction from just North of the Chesterfield Drive crossing to Solana Beach.  In order to have enough room for the second set of tracks, a large retaining wall was built to hold up San Elijo Ave. above.

Jacobo pointed out that one unique feature of this construction work, which involves several agencies, is that all these separate projects have been rolled into one giant contract allowing for cooperation between all of the stake holders.  As an example of how the one contract is bringing all of the agencies together, Jacobo said, “The railroad needed dirt for the embankment for the second rail line and that dirt came from the freeway.  So, we saved money because that dirt didn’t have to be exported off and the railroad saved money because they didn’t have to buy dirt.”  In addition to the double tracking, the old railroad bridge behind Las Olas restaurant is being replaced with a new modern bridge.


Illustration of pedestrain walkway beneath I-5 over San Elijo Lagoon, photo credit SANDAG

Pedestrians and cyclists are getting infrastructure improvements as well.  A bike and pedestrian bridge will be built under the new I-5 vehicle bridge allowing walkers and cyclists a way to cross over the lagoon and walk or ride from Cardiff to Solana Beach.

Walk/bike path continuing from the I-5 bridge. SANDAG

That same bike path will continue West down Manchester Ave. and then North, adjacent to the treatment plant, to Birmingham Ave.


Jacobo also stressed how important it is, for a project of this magnitude, to keep community members informed.  “We have the web page, we have Twitter, Instagram, we do door hangers, we go to the local schools and our goal is to be proactive in our communication to the stakeholders,” he said.

For more information on these projects go to:

Keep San Diego Moving

San Elijo Lagoon Conservancy

Questions or comments?  E-mail Bill Lawson at