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Nordahl Road Bridge opens

The traffic bottleneck on SR 78 near I-15 is expected to loosen up with the completion of a $41 million project to replace Nordahl Road Bridge and a $1.3 million project to reconfigure the Nordahl and Montiel Road intersection, officials announced Nov. 13 at a ribbon-cutting ceremony.

Traffic in and around the SR 78/I-15 interchange ranks among the most congested in San Diego County. Located in the vicinity are major destinations: Costco, the Nordahl Marketplace — home to Wal-Mart and Kohl’s — and the newly-built, 11-story Palomar Medical Center.

The expanded Nordahl Bridge and Nordahl Road improvements, which include a new entrance to Nordahl Marketplace, provide congestion relief just in time for the holidays at one of inland North County’s busiest shopping destinations.

“SANDAG and Caltrans, working in cooperation with the cities of Escondido and San Marcos, made it a top priority to unclog traffic at this critical juncture,” SANDAG Chair and Encinitas Mayor Jerome Stocks said. “We know thousands of residents drive by this area as part of their daily commute, and it can make a huge difference in their quality of life if we can cut the amount of time they spend in traffic.”

Since the bridge replacement project began in February, crews have been working around the clock on an accelerated schedule to finish construction by early November. A vital link to the Palomar Medical Center and between the cities of San Marcos and Escondido, the bridge is used heavily by both motorists and pedestrians. Demolition of the existing bridge and construction of the new bridge occurred in two phases to allow portions of the bridge to remain open to traffic and pedestrians throughout construction.

The new bridge is wider, taller, and ready to accommodate future SR 78 widening and carpool lanes underneath the bridge. The height has been raised to provide a vertical clearance of 16’ 6”, up from 14’ 9” (the lowest clearance along SR 78). The bridge also was lengthened from 193 feet to 234 feet.

To minimize vehicles stacking up and blocking the through lanes, additional turn pockets have been added to SR 78 on-ramps and off-ramps at Nordahl Road.

Meanwhile, the City of San Marcos has reconfigured the intersection of Nordahl and Montiel roads and built a new signalized entrance to Nordahl Marketplace farther away from Nordahl Bridge to reduce traffic backup. The city also has repaved Nordahl Road.

“We are delighted to open this area back up to regular traffic with our new and improved intersection, bridge, and traffic signals,” San Marcos Mayor Jim Desmond said. “I would like to extend my sincere thanks to our residents, businesses, and motorists for their patience over these last few months. The wait is over—from here on out we will all enjoy this improved area!”

Escondido Mayor Sam Abed also was enthusiastic about the improvements: “Thanks to this collaboration, we are now enjoying a dramatic improvement in the flow of traffic between Escondido and San Marcos, and this is especially important now that the new Palomar Medical Center West is open.”

Work to improve SR 78 continues. The widening of eastbound SR 78 is expected to be complete in spring 2013. An eastbound lane is being added between Woodland Parkway and Nordahl Road, and two additional lanes are being added from the Barham Drive on-ramp to the end of the Nordahl Road off-ramp. The westbound widening was finished in spring 2012.

The SR 78 improvements are funded by a mix of local, state, and federal dollars. TransNet, a regional half-cent sales tax for transportation administered by SANDAG, provided $15.5 million. The City of San Marcos contributed $6.75 million, and the City of Escondido contributed $4.75 million. Caltrans provided $14.1 million through the State Highway Operation and Protection Program.

Project Manager(s)

For media inquiries, please contact the SANDAG Public Information Office at (619) 699-1950 or