The San Diego City Council got the ball rolling Tuesday on a project to expand state Route 56 from four to six lanes to relieve chronic congestion.

The action, approved unanimously as part of the council’s consent agenda, forges an agreement with Caltrans that will begin the planning process. Construction will take place in multiple phases as funding becomes available, according to a city report.

Portions of the highway that runs between Interstates 5 and 15 “experience significant levels of congestion,” which is only expected to worsen as planned developments are built, the report says.

“There are times that this is an absolute parking lot, so the sooner we can get this done, the better,” said Councilman Mark Kersey, who represents Rancho Bernardo and Scripps Ranch. He noted that the San Diego Association of Governments set a target date of 2040 for the project.

Councilwoman Sherri Lightner, whose district includes the freeway’s western terminus in Carmel Valley, said “widening has been a topic of discussion for a long time, and 2040 is way too late for that to be done.”

She said she hoped to have the project finished by the time she leaves office in 2016.

The city staff report says that 78,000 vehicles per day traveled along state Route 56 between Carmel Creek Road and Carmel Country Road in 2011, while 55,000 vehicles drove daily between I-5 and El Camino Real.

The report also says that car pool lanes will be considered as an option for the expansion project.

 –City News Service

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