Improvement plans on Highland Drive include adding parking spaces and a walkway near the entrance to the county park. Photo by Bianca Kaplanek

City reluctantly gives OK to traffic calming plans

SOLANA BEACH — Although City Council members support plans to reduce Lomas Santa Fe Drive from four lanes to two near Highland Drive, they unanimously approved a revised project at the March 14 meeting that eliminates that traffic-calming element. 

Preliminary plans to improve traffic along the two roadways and where they intersect were initially presented during an April 2011 meeting. Since then staff discussed the project twice with the Public Safety Commission and held three meetings with homeowners associations and area residents.

Some community members strongly opposed the lane reduction, claiming it would increase traffic on Lomas Santa Fe and cause drivers to use the Via Mil Cumbres neighborhood as a cut-through route.

Some residents said speeding could be resolved with increased signage, while others said problems didn’t exist and changes weren’t needed.

Mo Sammak, the city engineer, said traffic consultants didn’t agree with those comments.

“However, the city manager directed us to change course and simply eliminate the work that was proposed on Lomas Santa Fe,” Sammak said. “That’s exactly what we did.”

Councilman Tom Campbell, who lives in the project area, sided with the engineers.

“There is no statistical information at all to support (those claims),” he said. “It’s a racetrack and it’s dangerous sometimes…we have to do something.”

Residents and Campbell’s colleagues agreed.

“I was so confused when I heard about the outcry at that meeting because over the years we’ve heard so many complaints about the speeding and here there was a solution being offered,” Councilwoman Lesa Heebner said. “I just don’t understand it and I think it’s an unfortunate lost opportunity.”

“There is a great need to improve this intersection and this street to make it safe,” Mary Jane Boyd, who lives in the area, said, adding that a radar device was effective in slowing traffic, but speeds increased when it was removed.

“This could be a beautiful street in the community,” she said. “The city really needs to take responsibility for slowing the traffic on that street.”

Campbell said one way to do that is increased enforcement with officers issuing tickets.

“That is the only thing that is going to slow people down,” he said. “We could balance the budget in a couple of months (with revenue from tickets). I’m serious. It’s just amazing how fast these people go and it is very dangerous.”

Other project improvements include the intersection of Lomas Santa Fe and Highland that will feature curve pop-outs on all corners, crosswalks in all four directions, dedicated turn lands, a concrete median on Lomas Santa Fe and the extension of the eastbound left-turn pocket.

The northern section Highland will have better defined pedestrian crossings at the Sun Valley intersection, parking near the county park, a walkway adjacent to the park entrance and a new sidewalk on the west side of the street.

On south Highland, travel lanes will be narrowed and midblock traffic calming features will be added. Wide stripes will be used for the pedestrian crossing. Once funding is available, the city will consider median landscaping and colored concrete for the sidewalk.

A 5-foot bike lane will be added through the entire corridor.

The city has about $335,000 in federal stimulus funds for the project. “This amount is certainly not enough to cover everything,” Sammak said.

The project will be advertised with alternative bid items, he said.

Council members agreed to move forward with the plans with the stipulation that reducing speeds on Lomas Santa Fe becomes a top priority during its upcoming workshop discussions.