By Doug Curlee | Editor at Large
Since about 1996, there have been plans afoot to clear up the many traffic problems around the Friars Road/state Route 163 area. Problems there have only grown worse as more and more residential construction has been built on both sides of Friars.
Much more construction is planned for the general Riverwalk area. There may be thousands of units, apartments and condos to come.
In the next few weeks, construction will begin on a two-year, $42 million project billed as Phase 1 of a three-phase plan for the whole area.
CalTrans oversees the project, and the city of San Diego is paying for it.
“Flatiron West, the primary contractor, is about ready to start work,” said CalTrans spokesman Hayden Manning.
The list of project parts is pretty imposing.
- Widen Friars Road and Friars Road overcrossing from west of Ulric Street to Mission Center Road.
(The overcrossing will be widened from three to four lanes in each direction.)
- Construct a southbound 163 auxiliary lane north of the Friars Road off-ramp.
- Construct additional turn lanes on the north and southbound loop exit ramps to Friars Road.
- Provide eastbound and westbound Friars Road access from northbound 163 loop exit ramp.
- Permanently close the existing northbound 163 to eastbound Friars Road exit ramp.
- Construct two new left turn lanes on westbound Friars Road at Ulric street.
- Extend the left turn lane on eastbound Friars at the intersection with the northbound 163 entrance ramp.
- Build a second left turn lane on eastbound Friars at the intersection with the northbound 163 ramp.
- Build one additional lane on Frazee Road between Murray Canyon Road and Friars Road.
- Improve Frazee Road between Hazard Center Driveway and Murray Canyon Road.
- Improvements for bicyclists and pedestrians, to include a bike lane and sidewalks in both directions of Friars Road, in addition to entrance-and-exit ramp modifications to eliminate the “free right” moves.
Manning says this is the list for Phase 1, but we should not consider this as a locked-in schedule.
“This is a two-year project, and things can change, depending on weather and any other problems that might come up in the process.”
You might be asking, “How is all this going to be paid for?”
Essentially, it already is paid for.
$23 million is from TransNet funds from the state to the city of San Diego; $16 million comes from developer impact fees — the money developers have had to pay in order to build the developments already in place along the route; $2.5 million paid by subdividers, primarily Sudberry Properties; and $471,000 from private sources — H.G Fenton, Mission Rio Vista, and ASN Presidio View.
The money is in the bank and ready to use.
Is it going to disrupt things for a couple of years?
Yes, of course it will. There will be traffic problems, traffic jams, and occasional road closures. You can’t do a project like this without those troubles.
But that area of Friars/163 has been a growing problem for years, as development has brought ever more traffic. This should alleviate some of those problems — if not most of them.
It is important to point out that this is Phase 1 of a three-part plan. Phases two and three have no funding yet. They’re not anywhere near construction yet — the operative word being “yet.”
They will be.
—Doug Curlee is Editor at Large. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.