By Karen Billing
Members of the Carmel Valley Community Planning Board celebrated a small victory on Thursday, Sept. 22, when they heard that while they won’t be able to stop the planned 2013 widening of Via de la Valle, they did play a role in reducing the number of feet the road will be expanded.
The widening that will take place along the stretch of Via de la Valle that runs from San Andres Drive to El Camino Real, will now mean a total width of 60 feet, down from the original proposal of 78 feet.
Jan Fuchs, co-chair of the regional issues subcommittee, was pleased with the news that the width would be reduced, a change that board members had fought for five years—their persistence paid off, she said.
Board member Anne Harvey said the narrower road was a win to preserve more of the landscape in the sensitive area.
“I hope we’ll all be grateful for decades,” Harvey said.
Craig Kahlen, of Rick Engineering, presented the update on the project to the board, along with Dale Greenhalgh of Black Mountain Ranch, LLC.
Greenhalgh said that discretionary approval for the project should happen in the first part of 2012, with the bids and permitting process to follow. They hope to kick off the construction in early 2013 and it may take up to 18 months to complete.
Kahlen said they were able to accomplish a 60-foot curb-to-curb widening by narrowing traffic lanes and reducing the medians that are normally 14 feet to 4 feet.
Board member Christopher Moore questioned whether there will be room for bike lanes. “That roadway is somewhat problematic for bicyclists,” he noted.
Kahlen said there will be a 6-foot lane on either side of the road for cyclists.
As a widening and realignment of El Camino Real is also in the works, board members wanted to be sure there was no redundancy in doing the projects separately. Kahlen said their project will match the El Camino Real widening and realignment—that portion of roadway will be handled by the El Camino Real project.
Another request of the board was to underground the SDG&E overhead lines which are numerous along that stretch of roadway. On the north side of the road lines have recently been undergrounded, and a second phase to underground distribution lines on the south side and along the hillside will soon be undertaken.
As part of the widening project, Greenhalgh said they must relocate all the utility lines temporarily, build the road and move them back to an underground conduit. The San Diego City Council will be hearing an item this year to remove all overhead lines from Via de la Valle and El Camino Real, he said.
While the narrowed road and undergrounding unsightly poles were seen as promising, at least one board member expressed concerns with widening Via de la Valle up to El Camino Real, where beyond it will remain a two-lane road to Rancho Santa Fe that the county has no intention of widening.
As member Christian Clews said, it’s like “building a freeway into a dirt road.”