Encinitas needs to focus on streets

The Encinitas City Council has re-started “strategic planning,” aiming to prioritize the city’s finances and staff time, while establishing measurable milestones.

Every city’s three most important roles are to safeguard the public’s money, keep people safe and maintain infrastructure, such as roads. We’re doing the first two very well. We’re fiscally prudent, saving for a rainy day, and budgeting sensibly. Our fire and sheriff’s personnel are top-notch; we have low crime statistics and a consistently safe community.

But when it comes to transportation infrastructure, I believe there’s room for improvement.

Cars: Many Encinitas residents work full-time outside the city, driving to and from the freeway every workday. Any discussion of additional housing density needs to go hand-in-hand with a re-evaluation of the roads that will carry those new residents. We haven’t made much progress toward updating the city’s “Circulation Element”, which is the blueprint for all roads. Maintaining high quality pavement is also one of my top priorities.

Bikes: Despite a 10-year-old Bicycle Master Plan, we have many roads without adequate and continuous bike lanes. More than 3,000 students attend Mira Costa College, yet to the west of campus there are no bike lanes and to the east, only very narrow ones. There is no public transportation to the college at all.

Some of our bike lanes abruptly end — after using the Santa Fe undercrossing, cyclists have no bike lanes along Vulcan to the library, downtown, or the train station. The road infrastructure along Coast Highway between Swami’s and Solana Beach is old and outdated. The city has made some recent improvements, but we need to do more.

Pedestrians: We live in a stunningly beautiful city, with perfect weather. It should be comfortable, safe, and, most of all, fun, to walk. We need continuous sidewalks, streetscape in Leucadia, open-space trails that connect and are well-maintained, and dedicated safe routes to school. This takes money, focus and commitment.

Rail Corridor: The status quo is not adequate for our rail corridor. Only the young and able-bodied will run across two lanes of speeding cars, scramble over rocks and dart across the railroad tracks to get to the beach. People with dogs, kids, strollers, beach gear, disabilities, and the elderly won’t do that. We need to prioritize building as many legal rail crossings as possible. We are working on one at Montgomery Avenue in Cardiff, and an undercrossing at El Portal in Leucadia just received a $4.7 million funding grant.

Final thoughts: Many people’s daily car trips are for things like running errands, going to the supermarket, drop-off and pick-up at school, nearby jobs and visiting each other’s homes.

Mode-shifting even a small number of these trips from driving to biking, walking or riding would create health and mood benefits and would reduce the number of cars fighting to get through the next light.

The design of our city’s streets can either limit our choices by making walking, biking, and taking public transit inconvenient, dangerous and unappealing, or it can inspire new alternatives by providing practical options for those willing to get their cars off congested roadways.

I have a list of other priorities but believe the transportation piece of our city’s puzzle is especially urgent. Encinitas needs to look ahead, plan for our growing prosperity and popularity, and enhance our resident-serving infrastructure.

Working together, I hope we can establish clear consensus around this during our strategic planning.

Catherine S. Blakespear is a member of the Encinitas City Council, currently serving as deputy mayor. She can be reached at cblakespear@encinitasca.gov

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