SR-163's Ugly Look, Dead Grass Explained

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    NEWSLETTERS

    NBC 7's Artie Ojeda digs into this question: Why is downtown San Diego's normally green gateway along State Route 163 going brown? (Published Thursday, Jul 17, 2014)

     Have you driven along State Route163 through Balboa Park recently? Most drivers will agree, it’s downright ugly.

    What once was a lush, green grass gateway in and out of downtown San Diego is now an eyesore. For starters, the center median is mostly made up of dead grass.

    But a landscape architect for Caltrans told NBC 7 there’s a good reason for the current look. It’s all part of a $4.4 million rehabilitation and beautification project.

    “The median looks dead because we purposely killed the grass. It will all be replaced with new heat-tolerant grass and additional planting,” said Stephen Alvarez.

    Alvarez said there has been a major pruning effort and the project will include an upgrade to existing infrastructure along the highway between Interstate 5 and Washington Street.

    “And that includes new irrigation systems with smart technology so that we can manage those water resources better,” said Alvarez.

    It’s the latest in a number of changes for Highway 163 in recent years. In 2004 wood barriers were put up for safety. Accidents have dropped drastically, but landscape aesthetics took a big hit.

    The barriers prevented easy access for maintenance crews, and by 2010, the highway saw tall weeds, dying trees and dead grass.

    But now, Caltrans says the hope is to return the landscaping of the highway to greener pastures. Caltrans says the beautification project is scheduled to be finished by the end of the year.