Highway project is still in neutral
Three alternatives have emerged in efforts to revitalize the roughly 1.7-mile stretch of Highway 101 through Solana Beach, but it is not yet clear what will ultimately be adopted by the City Council.
Questions that must be answered include whether to replace traffic lights with roundabouts, reduce the number of lanes on Highway 101, and what should go into beautifying the area to make it more pedestrian- and bicyclist-friendly. The council heard an update from its contracted engineering firm at its March 24 meeting. However, AFTER the consultant’s relatively fast-paced and technical presentation seeking guidance and direction, council members deferred until they could have more detailed, printed, side-by-side visuals.
“It’s virtually impossible for me, given what we’ve been provided, to look at these alternatives and make comments on them,” Mayor Tom Campbell said. “I need to see these things in a long drawing, compared one on top of the other.”
The council will ultimately have to decide how much it is willing to calm traffic in the heavily traversed area around the 101-Lomas Santa Fe intersection.
The project’s goal is to create a downtown that, while retaining the characteristics of Solana Beach, entails work similar to what was done to revitalize La Jolla’s Bird Rock neighborhood where roundabouts and new landscaping were installed.
However, Campbell said the council must also “keep in mind” the concerns of nearby residents who commute to and from their homes.
Engineers showed computer simulations of traffic along the Highway 101 using San Diego Association of Governments 2030 projections. Even if no work is done, the delay at the intersection of Lomas Santa Fe and the 101 would deteriorate to an ‘F’ level, or more than 80 seconds, by that year, according to the presentation.
The council will consider an alternative that would not add roundabouts or reduce the number of lanes but would mainly beautify the area. The street, however, would then be too narrow to be able to have bike lanes and the reverse-angle parking desired by some of the council members.
“Something has to give; in option one, it was the bike lane in that case,” said Larry Thornburgh of Nasland Engineering.
That, Councilman Mike Nichols said, is too important to lose.
“We have to have a bike lane,” he said. “Without reverse-angle parking you can’t have a bike lane. It just doesn’t work out and the bike coalition will be the first to step up to the plate and say you can’t do it.”
Thornburgh said the project alternatives that would be able to handle this back-in angle parking, which forces drivers to see in front of them before pulling out through a bike lane, would most likely entail reducing the amount of lanes. That would also probably mean roundabouts, which aim to keep traffic flowing.
Engineers will return to the council with the requested information at a future meeting. The city has had a goal of revitalizing the 101 since 2003. It is believed that a walkable, pedestrian friendly downtown could be the catalyst for increasing sales-tax revenue, down $600,000 from two fiscal years ago in this recession.
Councilman Dave Roberts said the city leaders should stay focused on what they believe is best for Solana Beach, and not commuters.
“We seem to be trying to design this to the circumstances instead of designing it to what we want,” he said. “Our goal is not to create a cut-through for people to go from Lomas to Cardiff-Encinitas. Our goal is to create a walkable downtown so people shop and walk.”
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