Via de la Valle corridor projects likely to progress

Several projects in the Via de la Valle corridor are picking up steam, San Diego’s senior traffic engineer told the Carmel Valley Community Planning Board.

Siavash Pazargadi presented an overview on March 9 of all projects planned for the corridor, something the planning group has long said is preferable to hearing about the projects one at a time.

The study on widening El Camino Real to Via de la Valle will look at adding roundabouts at four intersections: San Dieguito Road, the entrance to the polo fields, Via de la Valle and where Via de la Valle meets El Camino Real north. That EIR is due by the end of the year.

A “substantial amount” of money is available for all of the projects, Pazargadi said.

Undergrounding transmission lines from the freeway east on Via de la Valle could begin by fall and be complete by next spring, but the distribution lines along Via de la Valle would be undergrounded concurrently with the widening.

Nathan Bruner, underground program manager, said the city is taking advantage of the opportunity to accelerate undergrounding a multitude of lines on the rights of way and slopes of Via de la Valle while the road is being widened.

Board member Anne Harvey said this was great news, as plans they had heard in the past were that the city would repair the road and then have to tear it all up again to do the undergrounding. Harvey said it was a perfect example of why they had been asking to see projects together, presenting a cohesive package that makes sense.

Pazargadi said that both El Camino Real and Via de la Valle need improvements because of predicted future capacity and growth and to provide a safer roadway.

“The Via de la Valle widening has been in the works for quite some time,” Pazargadi said, noting that plans have been bounced back and forth for 15 to 20 years.

A typical section of the widened, four-lane Via de la Valle would be about 60 feet across in width, with a 4-foot median and bike lanes. Traffic lanes are planned at about 11 feet, a compromise from the normal width of 14 feet, planning board Chair Frisco White said.

Over the years, the board has always asked for a “minimal cross section,” which means less concrete curb-to-curb so close to the restored San Dieguito Lagoon and open space.

It appears the city has been listening to the planning board as early plans of a widened Via de la Valle were upward of 80 feet across.

“We didn’t care how many lanes as long as there was less pavement,” said Jan Fuchs, co-chair of the planning board’s regional issues subcommittee. “Eight years ago, the plan was the widest possible. I’m having to pinch myself that I’m hearing this. We’ve always asked for more innovative ways to move traffic, while preserving the specialness of this area.”

Ken Farinsky, a former planning board member, said he still wasn’t pleased with plans to widen Via de la Valle.

“I still think it’s overbuilt,” Farinsky said. “I don’t think the community sees the need for a four-lane Via de la Valle that dead-ends at El Camino Real. ... It’s not clear to me we need these huge roadways.”

The proposals

Projects in the Via de la Valle corridor, which each will have its own environmental report, include:

  • widening Via de la Valle to four lanes from San Andres to El Camino Real;
  • undergrounding utility lines on Via de la Valle from the freeway to the edge of the horse park;
  • widening El Camino Real and bridge replacement from San Dieguito Road to Via de la Valle; and
  • widening El Camino Real from Sea Country Lane to San Dieguito Road, which has already started.