Groups pushing for wildlife passage; El Camino Real widening planning continues


Both the Carmel Valley Community Planning Board and the San Diego River Park Joint Powers Authority are fighting the city to ensure that a wildlife undercrossing be included in the plans to widen El Camino Real.

The city has told the planning board that the undercrossing is planned but will not be built with the widening project due to a lack of funds. The undercrossing could be built in the future, but not by the city, according to the city’s draft plan that states it will be done “by others.”

The El Camino Real widening project would widen the road from two lanes to four lanes with a new signal at Sea Country Lane and modifications to the signal at San Dieguito Road.

Currently there is a “box culvert” under El Camino Real with three long tunnels serving as a connection for wildlife and pedestrians and riders. This existing crossing would be removed with the widening.

The plan is scheduled to go before a hearing officer on Oct. 28, but the River Park JPA has requested that the city delay their decision, saying they did not receive the plan in time to comment.

The Carmel Valley board expressed its disappointment in the city’s plans with a letter sent Sept. 9.

“The board cannot recommend approval of a project whose benefits to wildlife and trails in the Multiple Species Conservation Program Preserve depend on a phantom undercrossing,” read the letter.

Jan Fuchs, the board’s regional subcommittee co-chair said it was unacceptable to leave out an undercrossing that is an important habitat corridor link as well as a safe trail crossing of a high-speed roadway.

“If it isn’t built now it’s never going to happen,” Fuchs said.

The city’s draft plan states that the project “would not result in an interference with the movement of wildlife species” but the board strongly disagreed. Without the undercrossing, wildlife would have to cross 64 to 78 feet of “increasingly heavy traffic to safety,” their letter read.

According to the board’s letter, to say that the project is “environmentally advantageous because of an improved undercrossing yet not to provide for its construction is misleading and unacceptable.”