Torrey Pines Road project inches forward

By Dave Schwab

Staff Writer

After public debate and a plea by Councilwoman Sherri Lightner to “move this process forward,” La Jolla Traffic & Transportation Board members approved a plan recently for improvements along Torrey Pines Road.

After Lightner warned further delays could “prevent this project from ever being completed,” the vote was 5-1-1 in favor of starting with the segment between La Jolla Shores Drive and Little Street, the first of four proposed segments to de done in the $26.5-million redevelopment the corridor.

Dan Courtney cast the sole dissenting vote, noting he felt public safety should be the top priority — not which segment gets done first.

Orrin Gabsch, past owner of Burns Drugs, abstained in the vote after earlier expressing fear about the Torrey Pines project hurting business.

“This could be an absolute disaster for the community,” he warned. “Downtown is suffering right now and with this project I’m just afraid this will give people reason to say, ‘Don’t go to La Jolla because you can’t get in there.’ ”

“You get it going and the money will come,” said Lightner, noting momentum is all-important in a complex, long-term project of this nature that is vying with similar transportation projects elsewhere for state, local and federal subsidy dollars.

In casting the vote, the T&T Board members rejected a counterproposal backed by Robert Thiele and Sherri Nooravi, spokeswoman for an ad hoc Torrey Pines Corridor neighborhood group, which would have split the proposed project into eight “more bite-size” segments.

“I’m excited we’ve come to the point where the project could start,” Nooravi said during the meeting. “But we feel safety is a big priority — and this message hasn’t been heard.”

Nooravi added she and other neighbors are uncomfortable with cost considerations trumping safety concerns in determining which part of the redevelopment project gets done first

After the meeting, Thiele wrote in an e-mail that “tonight was a powerful night of politics that may just prove to be the

best solution in the long run. … I heard a commitment by Sherri to see this project through, all four segments of it. … I heard a room full of hope for a successful project.”

A couple of people also expressed doubt that the project, as proposed, will ever be finished. Among them was Joe LaCava, a Bird Rock resident who argued that it might be preferable to do an abridged version of the project.

“A $26 million project in four phases will never get done,” he said. “The better way to do it would be to downsize it to one $6 million or $7 million project: That would be a better solution, with a better chance of getting done, though it would make a lot of people unhappy.”

The Torrey Pines Corridor Study previously approved by the City Council recommends 20 improvements including:

• street cross sections and new guardrails, bollards and sidewalks,

• a 10-foot-wide, two-way left-lane median in the center of Torrey Pines west of Viking Way;

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