‘Safe routes’ projects get attention at council meeting

ENCINITAS — A series of sidewalk and infrastructure improvements along Requeza Street and Regal Road headline a list of five priority “safe routes to school” projects, according to a city staff report.

The City Council on Wednesday received the report on the prioritized list of projects, which was developed by the traffic and public safety commission over the past several months.

But the City Council and residents disagreed with the commission’s No. 2 ranked project, the construction of sidewalks along the south side of Melba Road between Crest and Balour drives.

Eight residents who live along the street spoke in opposition of the project, questioning why it would be ranked so highly when a sidewalk already exists on the north side of the street.

“How does the lack of a sidewalk constitute a safety risk when a sidewalk already exists on the other side of the street?” said CJ Minster, who said none of her neighbors were aware of the project’s inclusion until this week.

Minster said the proposed project would also reverse a compromise forged by the council and residents in 1990 that paved the way for the north side sidewalk, which allowed residents to improve the south side of the street with creative landscaping and no sidewalk.

Council members also expressed skepticism about the project’s high rank.

“I am not going to be inclined to change a decision that was made back then,” Councilman Tony Kranz said, referring to the 1990 compromise.

The priority project listing was developed from a list of more than 400 requested “safe routes” projects, which are infrastructure improvement projects that would improve pedestrian access around school areas.

Rather than rank them one to 400, the traffic and public safety commission grouped adjacent projects, ranked those groupings and selected the five-highest ranked groupings for the council’s consideration.

The Requeza-Regal corridor, which is adjacent to San Dieguito High School Academy, has long been considered a priority project due to its lack of basic infrastructure, such as sidewalks and bike lanes.

No. 3 on the priority listing is a pair of at-grade rail crossings proposed at Montgomery Avenue in Cardiff-by-the-Sea and Grandview Street in Leucadia.

A third proposed crossing at El Portal is not included in the listing because it is already being funded through a state grant.

Some long anticipated improvements around Cardiff Elementary ranked No. 4 on the priority listing. The city last year constructed new sidewalk on about 700 feet of San Elijo Avenue near the school.

The proposed improvements would occur along Stafford and Montgomery avenues, and include sidewalks, traffic calming and crosswalk improvements.

The final priority project grouping is a series of continued improvements around Paul Ecke Central Elementary, where a number of projects have already taken place to calm traffic in the area. Among the proposed projects is the construction of a sidewalk along the east side of Vulcan Avenue from Leucadia Boulevard to Union Street.

City staff now must determine which improvements can be done through other existing projects or with minimal staff time and effort.

The city would have to identify funding for the larger projects through the budget process.

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