In the latest attempt to add traffic safety measures along Del Mar Heights Road, the Torrey Pines Community Planning Board will hold a public hearing Thursday, Nov. 14 about a potential traffic signal at the street’s intersection with Mercado Drive.
Since 2001, when board members canvassed the community to generate support for improving safety along Del Mar Heights Road, various attempts to add stop lights and other measures have fallen short. Local residents have been divided over whether those types of measures would make a difference or just exacerbate the traffic congestion.
“While I don’t think it’s going to solve all the problems by a long stretch, it will do something,” said Diana Scheffler, one of two citizen members of the planning board’s five-person Project Review Board.
According to UC Berkeley’s Transportation Injury Mapping System, there have been 15 collisions resulting in 21 injuries on Del Mar Heights Road between Recuerdo and Mango drives from 2006 to 2018. Two of them occurred at Del Mar Heights Road and Mercado Drive. Nine collisions were at or near Mango Drive.
Dennis Ridz, chair of the Community Planning Board, said he does not want to comment on the issue before the public hearing on Thursday. But in a letter to the editor he submitted in the Oct. 31 issue of the Del Mar Times, he said he’s in favor of postponing voting pending further study, and called on San Diego City Councilwoman Barbara Bry to take more control of the process.
In a November 2018 letter to Bry about potential capital improvement projects in her district, the Torrey Pines Community Planning Board wrote that Del Mar Heights Road “has been identified by residents as having created a significant barrier to safe pedestrian circulation and illegal excessive speeds.” A traffic light was one of the proposed solutions.
In December 2017, the city of San Diego submitted an application to the San Diego Association of Governments for $220,000 in funding from an Active Transportation Grant Program, with a $135,000 matching contribution from the city. It would have been used for a complete streets study of Del Mar Heights Road, but ultimately fell through. Ridz, in a September 2018 letter to Bry, said that result forced the community to take “a piecemeal approach” to improving safety along the road.
“The consequences of thinking one project solves all traffic/safety issues is short-sighted,” he wrote. “Only a robust traffic study, as provided by a revised Community Plan handles current and projected future traffic models.”
Until another opportunity to develop a master plan arises, the community will once again debate the merit of a single new traffic signal. In a statement, Bry said the city’s traffic and engineering study approved the intersection of Del Mar Heights Road and Mercado Drive for a traffic signal.
“It is now up to the community to decide whether it welcomes the installation,” she said. “The community can formally do this and fulfill its advisory role by a vote of the community planning board.”
The planning board will meet Nov. 14 at 7 p.m. in Del Mar Heights School, located at 13555 Boquita Drive in Del Mar. For more information, visit torreypinescommunity.org.