ENCINITAS — It’s a perilous rite of passage for many motorists leaving the Sprouts parking lot on Encinitas Boulevard: pulling out and dodging vehicles speeding eastbound on Encinitas Boulevard to make a left turn and head west on the street.
The Encinitas Traffic and Public Safety Commission moved Dec. 10 to end that tradition, hoping to make the Encinitas Boulevard and El Camino Real intersection safer in the process.
The commission unanimously approved directing staff to eliminate the left-turn in, left-turn out option into and out of the Sprouts Parking lot from the parking lot’s northernmost exit onto Encinitas Boulevard.
“I think we have been lucky we haven’t had more accidents there,” commission Chairman Peter Kohl said about the left turn from the parking lot to westbound Encinitas. According to city staff, there were only three accidents reported there over the past five years.
But commission members agreed that it doesn’t make it any safer.
Patrons will still be able to turn left into the McDonald’s driveway, but cars leaving the parking lot at Sprouts will have to turn right and make a U-turn at the Encinitas-El Camino Real intersection.
The commission’s decision also directs staff to lengthen the left turn lane onto El Camino by 75 to 100 feet to accommodate the additional cars that will be using it to make the U-turn.
In order to enforce the no-left-turn order, the commission directed staff to erect plastic bollards in the turn pocket where most people would normally idle during the completion of the left turn. Staff’s proposal called for crews to stripe the area, but the commission felt the area needed a physical deterrent, which the bollards provide.
While the decision was unanimous, commissioners had several questions about how the action would impact the intersection, including whether the city would have to increase the time of the left turn light for the increased queue, and potentially if the right-turn onto westbound Encinitas Boulevard from southbound El Camino Real would have to be restricted to allow more cars to make the U-Turn.
City Traffic Engineer Abe Bandegan said that staff will monitor the intersection and make appropriate changes.
The entire commission agreed that the next step, however, would be solving the other part of the problem: slowing eastbound traffic on Encinitas Avenue, as motorists pick up speed as they come downhill approaching the intersection.
“The big issue is people winging downhill toward El Camino Real, one of the busiest intersections in our city,” Commissioner Charles Lisherness said.