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Rounding the Bend
Jeff Barnouw | Amphitheatre Drive

The draft Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for the Jimmy Durante-San Dieguito intersection improvement project (we still can’t call it a roundabout, or only in a roundabout way, it seems) is finally heading to the City Council March 7 for certification. Meeting on February 22 with a full house at the Annex and a panel of expert consultants, the Traffic and Parking Advisory Committee (TPAC), chaired by Ira Sharp, heard oral presentations from 12 citizens, 4 supporting the project.

fter City Staff and EIR consultants’ responses to the statements and questions, the Committee discussed and then voted 5-2 to recommend to the Council that the draft EIR should be certified and further voted 6-1 that the preferred intersection improvement option was a roundabout.

The draft EIR had elicited public comment which, together with the City responses on the facing page, came to 77 pages, posted on the Del Mar website. Similar remarks at the TPAC meeting included complaints that a roundabout would make gridlock even worse at peak times and be a nuisance at other times. City staff and consultants responded that when the streets are full of cars we have a jam under any conceivable traffic control arrangement.

Several critics saw no need for a roundabout, but for pedestrians this is a most dangerous crossroads and will get worse with surrounding development. Jimmy Durante Blvd is posted at 40 mph but traffic has often been surveyed at 50 mph. A roundabout is meant to slow traffic down and encourage a smooth flow under normal conditions. Critics see only a conflict of slow and flow.

TPAC member Tracy Martinez was concerned with the noise and exhaust fumes from traffic accelerating after having slowed down; it was noted by City staff that the posted speed limit could only be lowered once physical improvements have been constructed, and a subsequent speed survey conducted. Posted speed limits lower than the 85th percentile of surveyed traffic speeds are considered legally unenforceable by law enforcement, with San Dieguito Drive (25 mph posted speed vs. 40 mph surveyed speed) given as an example. A structural change, like a roundabout, allows for a speed limit change.

Chair Ira Sharp pointed out that extension of River Path Del Mar further east from the Overlook to Crest Canyon might alter San Dieguito Drive and increase pedestrian traffic so as to induce slower speeds.

Recommendation of the roundabout option was qualified by a Robin Crabtree amendment providing that there should be something in the middle to keep cars from driving straight through, perhaps a ‘Welcome to Del Mar’ monument, but no higher than 2 to 3 feet so as not to block sight lines and small enough to allow for emergency vehicles to mount the curb as needed during peak vehicular congestion periods.

The public will have yet another opportunity to weigh in at the March 7 City Council meeting, when the Council will consider the EIR for certification and, as a staff member put it, “provide direction as to which intersection improvement alternative they would like to pursue.” The smart money is on – a roundabout.

Note: This article is the third in a series. See “Crossroads Crossroads” Feb 2016 and “Round and Round We Go,” May 2015.


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