The 78 Freeway Finally Reopens After Months of Stressful Traffic

Caltrans works on the 78 freeway slopes next to the Preserve housing development and Marisol apartments. Many trucks and signs mark the road below to be cautious.

Juliette D'Eliseo

Caltrans works on the 78 freeway slopes next to the Preserve housing development and Marisol apartments. Many trucks and signs mark the road below to be cautious.

From March 15 to May 10, Carlsbad and Oceanside residents experienced traffic problems as a result of the 78 Freeway closure, located between College Boulevard and El Camino Real. The heavy rains in early March and an unexpected sinkhole formed on March 15 caused the collapse of the foundation, and water snuck under the freeway and flooded the culverts used to support the structure.

Construction crews worked hard to fix the freeway as soon as possible to resume traffic’s normal flow. These repairs cost more than $20 million. When the freeway closed, many locals found it difficult to travel around the area, whether for work or just a day out. Detour routes and streets that were normally quiet were jammed. 

Three weeks into the project, after closing the westbound freeway, Caltrans closed the eastbound side on April 5 for more emergency repairs. The shoulder on the westbound freeway was unrepairable unless the eastbound side was closed too. 

Traffic is already a raging problem in Carlsbad, and this made it worse. The closure caused traffic to linger, creating more severe traffic patterns. Not only did this affect people commuting to work, but also Sage Creek students and staff. 

The eastbound side of the freeway is closed off, and piles of dirt are being used to fill in the sinkhole. Cones marking off a lane of the Eastbound side of the freeway are marked off to continue repairs. (Juliette D’Eliseo)

The freeway closure caused many people to find detours to escape the traffic. 

Ms. Kalberg, an English teacher at Sage Creek, was able to find new routes to school to avoid the traffic. 

“I found traffic so unbearable that I found a new route to go to school, and it was way faster for me. So I’m glad there was traffic so I could find this new route,” Ms. Kalberg said. 

Traffic is one of the leading reasons students are late to school. This closure was between College Boulevard and El Camino Real; commuters were taking College Boulevard as their detour, causing students to get stuck in morning traffic. Traffic was so backed up that traffic lights on College Blvd., were grid-locked, making the trip to school around 20 minutes longer. 

Sophomore Lana Esquer, who is just getting her permit to drive, explains the added challenges of the freeway closure.   

“Traffic has been really clogged, and it takes longer to get home or to school every day,” she said. 

Not only was it affecting students getting to school, but also various other places such as getting home, going to practices, events, church and more. 

Sophomore Talia Baird elaborated on the traffic flow and how it affected traveling to other locations other than school.

“Getting to school, not really, but getting home from places is definitely a lot heavier.”

Students and local business employees faced similar struggles with getting to work and school on time.

William Stemwell, a personal trainer at North County Fitness & Performance, explains how getting to work has added stress to his day. 

“It usually takes me about ten minutes to get to work, but lately it’s been around 40 minutes, especially if I’m leaving around 2:30,” Stemwell said. 

For many weeks, the freeway had no completion date to reopen. The reopening was delayed many times because of rain and newly discovered damage. Now that the freeway is open again, traffic has resumed its normal flow.