Council OKs 25 mph speed limit on Saxony

ENCINITAS — The speed limit on a section of Saxony Road near a large senior community and the Magdalena Ecke YMCA will be lowered to 25 miles per hour as part of a plan to make the stretch of roadway safer for pedestrians.

The City Council on Wednesday night unanimously approved the traffic calming measures, which includes the installation of a crosswalk between the YMCA and the Seacrest Village retirement community and the designation of the stretch of Saxony as a “senior zone,” which will lower the speeds from 40 miles per hour to 25 miles per hour.

“I love it,” Councilwoman Lisa Shaffer said about the plan.

Wednesday’s vote is the latest in a series of actions the city has taken to improve the safety of Saxony and Quail Gardens Drive, two busy north-south streets in Encinitas that are at the center of a hub of cultural, educational and environmental organizations, including the Heritage Museum, the San Diego Botanic Garden, the YMCA, Seacrest Village, the Encinitas Union School District’s new farm lab and the Leichtag Foundation, whose headquarters are along Saxony.

Motorists speed along those streets in order to bypass the busy Interstate 5, a recipe for potential disaster, which residents said has been avoided to date, but in the long term is inevitable without change.

The City Council had already approved a 25 miles per hour zone along Quail Drive during school hours as a result of the school district’s farm lab, which is technically a school.

City staff said that the senior zone on Saxony is the first of its kind in Encinitas, but that the state’s vehicle code allows for such a speed limit in an area with a major senior center or a facility used by seniors. Saxony, with Seacrest and the YMCA, fits both of those categories.

The council in December approved the upcoming installation of two pedestrian-activated sidewalks that flash lights to signal drivers of pedestrian crossings, one on each street, and a grand total of eight electronic speed signs that will alert drivers of their speeds against the current 40 miles per hour speed limit along both stretches.

At that meeting, several of the groups calling for the changes pledged financial assistance to the city in order to expedite the construction of the measures — the YMCA and Seacrest Village each pledged $10,000 toward the construction of the new crossing along Saxony and the Leichtag Foundation pledged up to 50 percent of the costs of the speed signals along the road, or $20,000.

While city staff originally proposed holding off on the Saxony crosswalk until next fiscal year due to lack of funds, the City Council directed staff to search city coffers to find funding to start the project this year.

The council’s vote authorizes staff to spend $120,000 from traffic mitigation funds on the crosswalk, which will be south of the entrance of the Seacrest community. Staff presented the council with an alternative plan on the north side of the entrance, which was significantly cheaper, but staff said not as safe as the southern proposal.

Representatives from Seacrest, the Leichtag Foundation and the Botanic Garden attended Wednesday’s meeting and applauded the city’s relatively swift action to improving the safety on the streets.

“We feel that it is going to save many, many children’s lives for many, many years,” said Jim Farley, the CEO of the Leichtag Foundation.

The City Council directed staff, upon the request of several of the audience members, of the possibility of extending the slower speed zone all the way down to where Saxony intersects Encinitas Boulevard.

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