By Karen Billing
Anyone who has driven on the El Camino Real bridge with a cyclist alongside knows that sharing the road can be a tight squeeze. While the new bridge with the future re-alignment and widening of El Camino Real will afford a little more room, the San Diego River Park Joint Powers Authority wants to ensure a safe crossing for all users over the riverbed.
Last week the Carmel Valley Community Planning Board voted 9-4 in support of the river park’s efforts to make sure the bridge design includes a multi-use trail separated from the roadway.
The widening of El Camino Real, from San Dieguito Road to Via de la Valle will also involve realigning the road to the east and removing the old, 1920s bridge. Original plans included saving the old bridge to use as a trail connection, but the JPA has acknowledged that it cannot take responsibility for maintaining that bridge and it will be demolished.
As the planning for the widening has been going on for years, the river park had been told that there would be a cantilever on the west side of the bridge and the 2005 Environmental Impact Report included it in the favored eastern re-alignment of the road. However, the cantilever is not included in the current design, only a bike lane and a sidewalk.
A new draft EIR on the bridge is expected to be completed in the summer and the time is now to get the design fixed, according to Shawna Anderson, river park JPA environmental planner.
“We believe it represents a barrier to connecting to the Coast to Crest Trail,” Anderson said of the 55-mile trail in the works that would link Del Mar to Vulcan Mountain, north of Julian. “There’s no cantilever or space on the bridge to cross the river … a striped lane on the road is not a safe connection for our trail users.”
Anderson said they are fully supportive of the bike lane but they are pushing for a separated path for users who aren’t comfortable riding or walking with traffic on the high-speed, busy street, more than just the sidewalk.
“We’re flexible in the design as long as there’s a separate multi-use path with some kind of barrier,” Anderson said.