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Merry (or not) Go Round
Julie Maxey-Allison | 10th Street

After years of debate about its very existence, Del Mar’s new roundabout at Jimmy Durante and San Dieguito Road is a fact. Opening in time for us and the summer season traffic to twirl our way around, the roundabout added to the number of more than 4,800 built in the US since the first in 1990. They follow “circular junctions”—think the Arc de Triomphe, Paris, the Columbus Circle, Manhattan, and the many traffic circles in Washington, DC. Our modern version is smaller, with its raised “splitter island” and the vehicle in the circle having the right of way. The hope is to reduce traffic delays, accidents, and air pollution and to control traffic speeds.

How are we doing?

City Engineer Tim Thiele: ”It is going well. I have not heard of anything negative so far. It functions. People are getting through though West Coast drivers are not used to them and are still learning.” Mayor Terry Sinnott’s assessment: “The traffic flow during the Fair and Races has been good. It is a lot easier to get through the fair and racetrack traffic” but he noted that many people don’t yet understand that vehicles in the roundabout have the right of way. He also reports that there are no safety concerns related to the Fire Department being able to use the roundabout.

Resident drivers’ opinions vary: “I don’t like it.—It’s too small.—It’s fine!—I’m getting used to it.—Maybe I’ll get used to it?.” Charles Koll, one of the owners of the Viewpoint Brewing Company, located just east off the roundabout on San Dieguito Road says, “I really like it. It slows down the intersection making it safer and it’s easier to get into and out of San Dieguito Road efficiently.” However, Roel Grootenhuis who works at Viewpoint reports “I drive every day from Del Mar and the roundabout has often been blocked all round—a bottleneck”. He has also seen late night drivers having a tough time navigating the circle.

Most bicycle riders like the structure. Pedestrians gained crosswalks that also work as traffic calming when cars stop for them. “The goal is to lower speed in the village area,” says Thiele. “After a speed survey, we will make a decision on the speed sign though we don’t want too much signage because it becomes confusing” and soon sharrows (showing shared car/bicycle use) will be added for clarification. So will landscaping, including a Torrey Pine tree in the center of the circle.



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