Board considers solutions for Pacific Highlands Ranch traffic

The Carmel Valley Community Planning Board’s Pacific Highlands Ranch traffic subcommittee met in January and February, hearing from local residents about problem areas in their community as the board works toward developing short-term and long-term solutions for traffic woes.

Safety is a major concern that residents would like to see addressed, as well as some way to combat the traffic backups on Carmel Valley Road, which many believe is compounded by the number of schools in the area, many of them starting around the same time.

Cathedral Catholic High School, Sycamore Ridge Elementary School, Ashley Falls Elementary School and Canyon Crest Academy all begin the day at 8 a.m. Pacific Trails Middle School starts at 8:20 a.m. while Solana Ranch Elementary’s day begins at 8:40 a.m.

A resident who lives in the Casabella neighborhood, near Rancho Santa Fe Farms Road, said it takes 25 minutes to drive to Canyon Crest Academy, about 1.2 miles away.

During the busy morning hour, parents have reported that it takes 30 minutes to drive about a mile and a half to Sycamore Ridge and 45 minutes to get to Ashley Falls.Many parents are hesitant to let their children ride their bikes to school as they say it is “just not safe.” The community lacks crosswalks and the option of using the undercrossing at Lopelia Meadows is unappealing—it’s “creepy” say some and is unpaved on the other side of the crossing, emptying into dirt.

With traffic at a standstill in the mornings on Carmel Valley Road, people are turning off onto residential streets of Lopelia Meadows Place, Golden Cypress Place and Zinnia Hills Place. Blue Dawn Trail becomes a major thoroughfare as drivers cut through neighborhoods to bypass traffic and get back on Carmel Valley Road from Pacific Highlands Ranch Parkway. In the process, they are speeding down the narrow alleyways of the Portico neighborhood, which are not meant for heavy traffic flow or fast-moving vehicles.

The Portico community sees the worst traffic from 7:20 a.m. to 7:45 a.m. and many of the drivers are young students trying to get to school, said resident Crissy Simon.

On several occasions her young daughter has nearly been hit and she is concerned to be out walking her dog in her own alleyway.

“The reason we’re all here is it’s not if something happens, it’s when,” said Simon at the Feb. 26 meeting. “I feel like the crazy old lady out there telling them ‘You are going to hit somebody, you are going to change someone’s life including your own.’ I’m petrified that something is going to happen. These kids are 17, they’re good kids, they’re just not thinking.”

Tom James, a member of the Portico HOA, said that they are very close to using temporary barriers as a solution just to see what happens. The plan is to place them in the alleyways and then remove them after the morning rush at 8 a.m.

“We just don’t see schools changing their bell schedules or the no right hand turn signs coming,” James said. “We don’t know if people will blow through (the barriers)….we will have to see what the effect is.”

In November, the board approved no right turn signs between the hours of 7-8 a.m. Monday through Friday at the Carmel Valley Road intersections of Lopelia Meadows, Zinnia Hills and Golden Cypress Road, but they received pushback from some neighbors. CV Planning Board Chair Frisco White said the board would request that the city implement the signage when they know a little bit more about the overall plans for addressing traffic in PHR.

The board plans to hold one more meeting to refine the issues and potential solutions.

The board believes one key solution will be completing the connection of Village Center Loop Road —it currently dead-ends but it is supposed to loop back to Carmel Valley Road. The board is working with the city to expedite the completion of that road.

Resident Karen Dubey said the problems on the residential streets are all a symptom of the larger problem of Carmel Valley Road and that the actual traffic flow on that road needs to be addressed. Some of the contributing factors may be harder for the board to solve—as residents noted, SR-56 is not wide enough, and many on the road are coming from 4S Ranch and Rancho Bernardo communities to avoid I-15 and SR-56.

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