Roundabouts on El Camino Real will be studied as part of road widening project

The Carmel Valley Community Planning Board voted 16-1 on Feb. 9 in favor of having four proposed El Camino Real roundabouts studied in the Environmental Impact Report for the El Camino Real road widening project.

“I support putting (the roundabouts) in the EIR,” said board member Scott Tillson. “Let’s see what the studies say.”

Board member Christian Clews was the sole dissenting vote. He raised concerns about the impact of roundabouts on a road frequented by horse trailers. He questioned whether trailers will be able to safely negotiate the turns.

The EIR will study alignment alternatives for widening El Camino Real from two lanes to four lanes from Sea Country Lane to Via de la Valle, as well as replacing the bridge over the San Dieguito River. One alternative will include four roundabouts with the widening.

Siavash Pazargadi, city traffic engineer, said roundabouts are proposed for the intersection of El Camino Real and San Dieguito Road; at the Polo Field entrance; and at the large Via de la Valle and El Camino Real intersection by Mary’s Tack and Feed. The fourth roundabout would be located at Via de la Valle and El Camino Real north.

Pazargadi said that roundabouts decrease speed but keep traffic flowing, improve safety and reduce pollution created by stop-and-go traffic. He said that roundabouts can also be adaptable to the surrounding environment and can be more aesthetically pleasing than a signal light.

The cost of roundabouts is higher than a signal light but needs less maintenance over time, Pazargadi said. Roundabouts cost about $1 million each while signals cost around $300,000 each plus road improvements. Pazargadi said these particular intersections need a lot of repair.

Pazargadi said roundabouts have long been popular in other countries, but they are now being used in more in U.S. cities. In the last 16 years, he said the number of roundabouts in the U.S. has risen from 1,000 to about 10,000 — they are found locally in Carlsbad and the Bird Rock area of La Jolla.

Board member Anne Harvey said board members have spent a lot of time talking to the city about the potential for roundabouts and she is in favor of them.

“This roadway should fit into the landscape and be a serene experience,” Harvey said. “I really like the roundabout design because I think it provides that.”

With the road widening, it is possible El Camino Real will get a more eastern alignment, cutting into the Polo Fields property as well as the Hu property, the swath of land next to the Polo Fields. Developers are also working on plans for a senior living facility there.

Ali Shapouri, representing the owners of the Hu property where two roundabouts will be placed in front of the property, said that the owners support roundabouts as long as the city works with them in their planning.

“We think it’s a beautiful alternative,” Shapouri said. “We think the added value takes care of the loss of useable land.”