Encinitas, Solana Beach explore crosswalk options for Coast Highway at city limits
Consultant presents three proposals, all have challenges, city traffic engineer reports
All the recent improvements to trails, walkways and cycle paths at the Solana Beach/Encinitas city limits are tempting upwards of 200 pedestrians a day on weekends to dash across Coast Highway at a spot where there’s no crosswalks.
Encinitas and Solana Beach are now exploring options for solving this problem and the consultant they’ve jointly hired has produced three proposals, city traffic engineer Abe Bandegan told the Encinitas Mobility and Traffic Safety Commission Monday, May 8. However, he said, each option has its downsides.
The three proposals are:
- Installing a standard, signalized pedestrian crossing, similar to what’s in place at the pedestrian underpass near Swami’s Beach. In order to cross, people push a button, a traffic light stops vehicles in both directions and pedestrians begin to walk across the roadway. Vehicles remain stopped until the traffic light turns green.
- Installing a HAWK (High-intensity Activated CrossWalk) beacon signal, which begins with a yellow light when a pedestrian pushes a button. Pedestrians make their crossing when the signal goes into its red period and they try to finish before the lights transition to flashing red and ultimately turn off. During the flashing red period, vehicles can go after coming to a stop. HAWK signals are commonly used in Arizona and Nevada, but are rare in Southern California, Bandegan said.
- Building a “Z”-shaped crosswalk, where the northbound and southbound traffic lane crossing points are staggered and there’s a resting “island” for pedestrians in the middle of the roadway, or the center of the “Z.” This crosswalk system would not have a traffic signal, but would require reducing the vehicle lanes from two to one in each direction, Bandegan said.
The first two proposals are expensive — traffic signal installation costs $300,000 to $400,000. And, any cost-sharing agreement will require some delicate negotiations between the two cities because the crossing point would be in Encinitas, but the pedestrians using it most likely will be Solana Beach residents, Bandegan said.
The third option is much cheaper and has the added benefit of eliminating concerns raised by nearby Solana Beach homeowners who don’t want their ocean views obstructed by traffic lights and poles. However, because it includes plans to eliminate a vehicle lane in each direction, it’s going to require state Coastal Commission review and that could take six months or more, Bandegan said.
Bandegan told the commissioners that he’s now waiting to hear how the Solana Beach and Encinitas councils want to proceed, saying the various design options are pretty much ready at this point.
Walking across Coast Highway at the southern edge of the Encinitas city limits has become increasing popular in the last several years. Immediately east of the roadway, Solana Beach’s new Harbaugh Seaside Trails area beckons. On the west side, there’s the Pacific Ocean and the new bike and pedestrian routes installed by Encinitas. And, more improvements are in the works — a sidewalk construction project is expected to conclude before winter arrives, Bandegan said.
Commission Chair June Honsberger asked him which of the three proposed crosswalk solutions he preferred. He said that from an engineering standpoint, he’d choose the first one — the signalized pedestrian crossing.
“Drivers respect it, they know what it is,” he said, adding that’s important because pedestrian crossing numbers are likely to increase to upward of 500 people a day if a crosswalk is installed.
Honsberger said she could see the attraction of the third option for cost reasons. Given that it wouldn’t block public access to the coast or take away any parking spaces, the Coastal Commission might be supportive of it, she said.
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