ENCINITAS—On the heels of a major victory to slow down vehicle speeds on sections of Saxony Road and Quail Gardens Drive, stakeholders along both streets have turned their attention to a more ambitious goal- lowering the speed limit along the entire stretch of both roads between Leucadia and Encinitas boulevards.
The coalition of educational, senior and cultural organizations, known as the Encinitas Environmental Education Cluster, held the first of two community workshops Tuesday night that they hope will yield a plan that will lead to lower speeds along the well-traveled streets.
The second meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. Thursday at the San Diego Botanic Garden.
“The ultimate goal is a 25 miles-per-hour speed limit for the full length of the road,” said Dawn Wilson, a traffic engineer with Fehr and Peers, the consulting firm hired by the E3 Cluster to help craft the plan. When Wilson said this, the audience of about 50 people, many seniors who lived in the Seacrest Village retirement community where the event was held, broke out in applause.
“I am so glad to hear that it’s a popular idea,” Wilson said.
The residents brainstormed present Tuesday methods that could be used to slow traffic. Traffic consultants hired by the group will take that information and create a plan that will be presented to the City Council for approval in June. Funding for the measures has yet to be determined.
“But in order to have funding, we have to have a plan,” Wilson told the audience.
Residents along both streets – Quail Gardens and Saxony – have been frustrated in recent years by increasingly faster traffic as motorists have used the streets to bypass traffic along Interstate 5, which runs parallel to the streets.
Residents have called for the city to lower the speed limit, but the city has been unable to oblige the request, largely due to how speed limits are created.
Every few years, traffic officials conduct a speed survey to see how fast motorists drive along a stretch of road. The speed limit is set by the speed that 85 percent of drivers drive along the stretch. The faster drivers drive, the faster the speed limit.
In order to lower the speed limit, Wilson said, the coalition must slow the cars down. Among the tools discussed at Tuesday’s meeting were roundabouts, the placement of medians in the roadway, exaggerated or raised crosswalks, street parking and bike lanes, and other measures that would shrink the profile of the roadway.
“What slows drivers down is the perception of obstructions along the roadway,” Wilson said. “They see the road with narrowing, they see those obstructions and they slow down.”
The E3 Cluster – composed of the San Diego Botanic Garden, the Magdalena Ecke YMCA, the Encinitas Union School District, Seacrest, the San Dieguito Heritage Museum and the Leichtag Foundation, have been leading the charge of calming traffic along the streets.
Earlier this year, the coalition worked with the city to successfully implement traffic calming measures along segments of the streets. On Quail Gardens, the city enacted a 25-mile-per-hour speed limit in the area near the school district’s new farm lab, and installed a crosswalk with safety lights in front of the farm lab.
On Saxony, the city recently enacted a 25-miles-per-hour “senior zone” in the area immediately adjacent to Seacrest and the YMCA. Construction of a similar crosswalk, which will bridge the two locations, is expected to be completed in June.
Some of the stakeholders acknowledged that lowering speeds might inconvenience some drivers – including those who commute to some of their establishments.
“I have to say I am personally impacted by this because I have to slow down on my way to work,” said Pam Ferris, the president and chief executive officer of Seacrest Village. “What I have seen over the years is that the traffic on these streets has increased tremendously, and the people are not concerned about the neighborhood per se. If we would slow it down, it would make the streets safer for neighbors, and deter those who are using the streets as a cut-through because they would lose the incentive of saving that time by speeding.”