Concerns and support voiced for planned Via de la Valle widening project near Del Mar

By Karen Billing

The planned widening of Via de la Valle, which will enlarge the existing two-lane road to a four-lane road from San Andres to El Camino Real, is still a few years off but is inching closer to the final stretch.

At its Aug. 22 meeting, the Carmel Valley Community Planning Board heard an update about the widening’s status and was asked to provide a motion of support for the project.

With a quorum of only nine of the group’s 16 members present, the planning board could not get a passing motion for the project. A motion in opposition to the widening failed 2-6, with one abstention, and a motion to support the plan with conditions failed 7-2 with Christian Clews and Steve Davison voting against it.

Clews expressed strong opposition to the widening for its impact on surrounding local businesses and the Del Mar Horsepark, as well as for its necessity as the four-lane road will end in a two-lane road after El Camino Real and the county has no intention to widen the road at that point as it leads into Rancho Santa Fe.

As the planning board serves solely in an advisory role to the city, it will send a letter recommending its project conditions, such as making sure the road has as little pavement as possible; that all enhanced bike lane opportunities be explored; and that aesthetics such as weathered corten steel be used on the guardrails.

In its current state, the city believes that Via de la Valle is inadequate to meet transportation demands.

The existing two-lane road is built for a maximum of 10,000 average daily trips (ADTs) but the current volume is almost double that at 17,000 ADTs, according to city traffic engineer Farah Mahzari. City traffic engineers are projecting 27,000 ADTs by 2030 and a four-lane road has a capacity for 30,000 so they are hoping that the widened Via de la Valle will be able to carry that capacity to and from the freeway.

According to Dale Greenhalgh of Black Mountain Ranch, LLC, the project will next go to the hearing officer in September and then is about two years away from the beginning of construction, with a year tagged for Coastal Commission approvals and a year on engineering.

The project goes back 10 years when it was originally submitted to the city. Concerns from the planning board and other agencies were always about keeping the road’s footprint as narrow as possible through the environmentally-sensitive corridor that includes the San Dieguito River Park.

As a result, although the road will be widened to two lanes in each direction, the road will be 60 feet wide, smaller than the city standard of 84 feet from curb to curb. There will also be a four-foot-wide median and a new six-foot-wide bike lane on both sides of the road.

“This is a massive improvement from what’s out there,” Greenhalgh said of the widened, safer bikeway.

The majority of the road will be widened on the south side due to the steep bluffs on the north side. On the south side there will also be a decomposed granite walking path in the parkway, a 10-foot area behind the curb, adjacent to the bike lane.

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