By Claire McGreal
Some proponents of Prop J have used the roundabouts at Bird Rock as an example of how roundabouts might be used in Del Mar. Bird Rock does not compare with Del Mar, so let’s stop that apples-to-oranges comparison right now!
Del Mar’s Camino del Mar (CDM), aka Highway 101, is the north-south alternative to Interstate 5. The stretch of La Jolla Blvd. between La Jolla and Pacific Beach is not an alternate route to any major artery, but is a route for locals shuttling between two neighborhoods.
1) Interstate 5 is located one mile east of CDM, and it fills with traffic congestion every morning and evening, and many of those commuters divert at one of the Del Mar exits to use CDM to escape a back-up. Bird Rock has no such problem.
2) One of the largest employment centers in San Diego County is located just to Del Mar’s south: UTC, Sorrento Valley, UCSD and Torrey Pines Mesa. Many of those employees routinely commute through Del Mar on CDM. Bird Rock has no such adjacent major employment center.
3) Del Mar is home to the fairgrounds that receives more than three million visitors each year. Bird Rock has no such attraction.
4) Del Mar’s beach receives more than one million visitors each year. Not so for Bird Rock.
For these reasons, clearly it is a specious argument that concludes that “what works in Bird Rock, will work in Del Mar”. Further, there are several other important reasons why roundabouts are not good for Del Mar.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) states that roundabouts should not be used under certain conditions, including:
1) where traffic volume coming into the roundabout is uneven, as on CDM where traffic volume is far heavier that the volume coming into the proposed roundabouts from 9th or 13th Streets; and
2) where roundabouts are isolated between two stop lights, as on CDM, where under Prop J the stop lights at 4th and 15th Streets will remain in use, stopping traffic along CDM.
Moreover, traffic engineers often advise that roundabouts should not be used in tourist areas as many people are unfamiliar with the proper use of roundabouts, and thus accidents often result. Del Mar is very much a tourist destination and will remain so. Also, traffic engineers advise that roundabouts should not be used when the grade at any entrance to the roundabout is greater than 3%. That rule would disqualify both 9th and 13th Streets from having roundabouts.
For all the reasons stated here, the proposed roundabouts in Del Mar should not be likened to Bird Rock’s roundabouts, and most importantly, CDM is simply not suited to roundabouts.