CARLSBAD — On Feb. 23, the fate of one of the most controversial plans in recent history will be known.
Voters will decide whether or not to allow the development of 26 acres for a luxury mall, while the remaining 177 acres will be dedicated to open space on the south shore of Agua Hedionda Lagoon north of Cannon Road.
In the second part of The Coast News’ three-part series, the traffic report is summarized and details of improvements.
The traffic analysis is one of the most hotly contested reports as opponents have stated the influx of vehicles is underestimated; while proponents argue the roadways will be improve.
The city of Carlsbad commissioned Michael Baker International, an independent consulting firm, to review Caruso Affiliated’s 4,000-page report. The city’s consultant’s reports were compiled into the 9212 report, which summarizes their findings compared to the Kosmont Group, which was hired by Caruso Affiliated.
Rick Caruso, the Los Angeles-based developer, will pay about $10 million toward traffic improvements.
Perhaps the biggest issue surrounds Cannon Road, Interstate 5, Paseo Del Norte and even Legoland Drive.
West of I-5 along Cannon Road, the proposal calls for widening one westbound lane to create two through lanes and one right turn/through lane at the Paseo Del Norte intersection.
Eastbound, a right turn lane will be added at the intersection to enter the mall, while an additional right turn lane to the I-5 on ramp will be included. Five exit-only lanes (two right turns, two lefts and one through) will be constructed on site.
Vehicles driving east toward Car Country Drive will see two left turn lanes and a traffic light, which only stops eastbound traffic, added to the entrance of the project.
“They are mitigating more than their impact,” Gary Barberio, assistant city manager, said. “They are doing improvements along the frontage of Cannon. They are doing an additional access road on the freeway.”
The 9212 report also analyzed 34 intersections and 31 roadway segments.
Eight intersections are significantly impacted and are expected to fall short Level of Service (LOS) Standard by 2035 due to regional traffic growth, although they are expected to fall short even if the measure does not pass.
Five of those intersections will operate below the LOS in 2019, when the mall would open, either with or without the addition of the Specific Plan traffic, according to the report.
The delays “would not significantly impact” the threshold according to the city adopted SANTEC/ITE Traffic Impact Study Guidelines. Because of no significant impacts, no improvements are required.
“Whether or not anything gets done on this property, there is a problem,” Barberio said. “The problem doesn’t get fixed by widening every intersection to freeway size.”
However, the study found the initiative’s Environmental Protection Features will either improve the intersection to meet Growth Management Plan or improve traffic conditions to a point “where congestion will be reduced to less than significant level.”
In short, the 9212 report states traffic will be better at all intersections including the aforementioned eight, in all three scenarios analyzed. The below LOS in 2035 projections, Barberio said, is mostly due to regional growth.
The San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG) reported Tuesday it expects an additional 1 million people, or a 30 percent increase, by 2050.
“The analysis was threefold,” Barberio said. “So, existing conditions, the opening year (2019) and then the build out long-range projection in 2035. Those eight intersections really come into play in the 2035 analysis.”
Barberio said new traffic lights will be installed, but will have the ability to “speak” to each other.
He said instead of information being relayed to the Faraday traffic center, then back, the new lights will communicate directly with each other, thus reducing wait times.
The data was collected in July 2014 for 22 intersections and 11 in November 2014 when schools were in session.
A 5 percent increase was added when Legoland is open, however, data was not collected at that time as the date fell on a Wednesday, a day in which Legoland is closed during the offseason.
The 5 percent was applied by adjusting the November counts at three intersections to match the July 2014 volume.
In addition, traffic signal delays will be reduced, according to the report.
“In our professional opinion, the adjustments applied to the November 2014 counts provide a more accurate assessment of peak traffic conditions on days when Legoland is open,” the report said.
The full report is available on the city’s website at carlsbadca.gov.