Concerns linger at major intersection in Solana Beach
The intersection of Interstate 5 and Lomas Santa Fe Drive in Solana Beach was a work in progress for most of the past decade. To Safer Solana, a group of concerned residents pushing for increased pedestrian and bicyclist safety, it still is.
Sharp turns, drastic changes in speed limits from the freeway onto city streets, and exposed bikers near I-5 onramps highlight cautions it has raised. But much to its consternation, the department of transportation, not the Solana Beach City Council, has the final say.
“Caltrans people are unfailingly polite. They listen, but they’re very difficult to move,” said group member Steve Goetsch. “There are three ways to do things: The right way, the wrong way and the Caltrans way. Two of them don’t count.”
An ad hoc City Council committee has effectively kept the lines of communication open between residents and the department of transportation.
“Caltrans, I believe, has really tried working with our community,” said Councilman Dave Roberts. “Of course you have to remember they’re coming along with the freeway widening project and they want to keep all the coastal communities happy.”
In a testament to this, Caltrans has already made some changes at the request of Solana Beach. It constructed a raised median along westbound Lomas Santa Fe to separate the bike lane from traffic turning onto the freeway. Also, to protect pedestrians, Caltrans will make it illegal to turn sharp left onto I-5 from the eastbound side.
“They’ve actually done quite a bit,” said City Manager David Ott. “This is the most I’ve ever seen Caltrans actually do. They have been very, very much cooperative.”
But Roger Boyd, founder of Safer Solana, said there are further safety improvements needed. These include installing photo enforcement cameras at the intersection, as well as removing a 55 mph speed-limit sign from one of the exit ramps since it leads directly into a 25 mph zone if the traffic light below is green. The department of transportation is currently evaluating the requests.
“They don’t think too much about other modes of transportation like bicycles and pedestrians,” Boyd said. “When that becomes important is when you get into a community where the interchanges come down into a densely populated area.”
Allan Kosup, director of this corridor for Caltrans, said the $60 million construction project has already made significant enhancements for those not traveling by car. Most notably, bikers and walkers now have a path under the freeway bridge that is protected by columns and a raised barrier.
“We continue to work with them and continue to do surveillance, safety is extremely important to us,” he said. “We think it’s a good design and we stand by our project.”
The expansion, completed in 2008, has reduced the amount of waiting time for cars from three minutes in peak hours to less than two.
“That’s a tremendous improvement,” said City Engineer Mo Sammack.
In an effort to reduce freeway noise, Kosup said later this year Caltrans plans to begin construction of a whisper grind on I-5 from Via de la Valle to Lomas Santa Fe. Caltrans is also working on an environmental impact report for a project to widen I-5 throughout northern San Diego County.
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