SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - An off-ramp drivers have used for decades to exit the northbound state Route 163 onto Friars Road is gone for good.
On Wednesday, Caltrans permanently closed the off-ramp that leads from northbound SR-163 to eastbound Friars Road.
The exit provides direct access onto eastbound Friars Road, with a straight shot to SDCCU stadium and the thousands of homes being built that direction. It also gets drivers away from the traffic heading toward the Fashion Valley Mall.
With the exit removed, motorists are routed to westbound Friars Road, which drivers currently use to exit the freeway. That exit has been expanded to five lanes and now includes a traffic light. The bridge over SR-163 has also been widened during the $40 million project.
Doug Cortez, a Caltrans engineer, said the new setup will eliminate the hazard of drivers exiting eastbound and cutting across three lanes of traffic to go left into the business park on Frazee Road, which is the next traffic light.
"That creates a major traffic condition in the morning," Cortez said.
The construction, which has taken place place over the past two years, has taken a toll on some area businesses.
"What happens when they start construction is people develop other habits," said Ken Yearwood, who co-owns Intermezzo Espresso in Hazard Center. "They get caught in traffic, it's hard to get out of it."
There are also questions about how the configuration will hold up during the holidays, when throngs go to Fashion Valley to shop. The eastbound drivers will now be waiting in the same line to exit.
"I'm still curious how well that's going to work, coming up around and making the left onto Friars Road, because then they are going to get backed up all the way on the freeway," said Stuart Benjamin, who owns Stuart Benjamin Jewerly Designs in Hazard Center.
Both Benjamin and Yearwood said they are glad construction is winding down.
Cortez said the plan is for it to be done by late November. He added the holidays will be a busy time in the area. Cortez asked drivers to give themselves extra time Wednesday, and to watch out for stopped cars.