By Claire Harlin
The idea of installing roundabouts in downtown Del Mar was met with little opposition and many suggestions at a Feb. 6 City Council workshop to present and explore all possible options for traffic flow in the Village.
Currently, the four-lane Camino del Mar is over capacity, said planning and community development director Kathy Garcia. It carries some 18,700 cars daily, according to a city traffic study, and it’s only designed to accommodate 15,500 cars per day.
“We are exceeding our capacity every day,” said Garcia. “That is resulting in congestion; additional emissions, as people are stopping at the stop signs; and safety concerns, especially for the pedestrians.”
A major part of revitalization efforts that are underway is accommodating traffic, and there are three options on the table: leave Camino del Mar as is, put up traffic signals, or reduce the street to two lanes and install roundabouts.
Roundabouts, intersections in which traffic flows counterclockwise around a circular island, are popular in Europe and have been increasingly popping up in the United States. The Bird Rock community in La Jolla, as well as Encinitas, have incorporated roundabouts into their designs.
Putting up signals and maintaining four lanes would accommodate upward of 30,000 cars a day, however, it would reduce the walkability of Del Mar. Reducing the street to two lanes would allow for wider sidewalks and outside seating, and installing roundabouts would keep traffic continuously moving, Garcia explained, using simulations. She said that, depending on the design of the roundabouts, this model would accommodate between 22,000 and 26,000 cars per day.
The coupled reduction in lanes and installation of roundabouts was the preferred option among members of the council, not only for its safety virtues but ability to reduce in emissions caused by the stop-and-go that comes with having stop signs.
Councilman Don Mosier said he would be happy with Del Mar serving a more “intermediate capacity.”
“I’m not sure if we want 30,000 cars a day going through the city,” he said.
Garcia also pointed out that the crossing distance at intersections will decrease if lanes are reduced. In Bird Rock, for example, the crossing distance was 68 feet across the street before the land reduction, after which a pedestrian only had to walk 14 feet to reach the safety of the median. On Camino del Mar, Garcia said pedestrians are walking between 70 and 80 feet at intersections, and according to the traffic study, presents at least 28 “potential conflict points” between pedestrians and autos.
City Councilwoman Lee Haydu said she’s concerned that the lack of safety and walkability that comes with having four lanes may deter visitors.
“Right now crossing the street is like taking my life into my own hands,” she said.
Deputy Mayor Terry Sinnott said it is important to evaluate thoroughly whether implementing traffic alternatives would directly lead to an improvement in downtown business. He begged the question: “What would happen if we do nothing?”
Del Mar resident John Kerridge said he supports the roundabout option, given that all stop signs are eliminated.