CARLSBAD — For years, the city has planned, engaged residents and revamped plans for the Terramar Coastal Improvement Project.
And in front of a full house on Nov. 27, the City Council approved 3-2, with support from council members Cori Schumacher, Michael Schumacher and Mark Packard, a hybrid option, which will feature a roundabout at Cannon Drive and a traffic light at Cerezo Drive at intersections along Carlsbad Boulevard.
Of the four options presented, the council felt the compromise of the roundabout and stoplight would be most beneficial to residents, who have long had to battle nightmarish traffic during the morning and late afternoon commutes.
“I don’t believe roundabouts are the bogeyman,” Packard said. “But on a street where houses are fronting, what comes down to the challenge is the overall community benefit of smooth traffic and people being able to get into their driveways.”
The highly anticipated meeting saw dozens of residents speak, voicing concerns about traffic safety (vehicles, pedestrians and cyclists), uneasiness with roundabouts, an alternative to Interstate 5, U-turns at Cerezo Drive, the center lane and most notably, residents backing out of their driveways.
Of the four options presented — traffic lights at each intersection, roundabouts at each, a traffic light at Cannon Drive and roundabout at Cerezo Drive and a traffic light at Cerezo Drive and roundabout at Cannon Drive — the city’s analysis revealed all options met the goals and criteria of the project parameters.
The project will include crosswalks at various points along the boulevard, more parking on Cannon Drive, wider sidewalks, sidewalks along the boulevard south of the neighborhood and reverse angled parking at the south end of the neighborhood.
In addition, the center turn lane will be kept, although with the selection of a hybrid, Gary Barberio, assistant city manager, and other city staff noted the project must lose an enhancement. As a result, the council voted to cut out parking on the east side of the boulevard.
“With deference to the community’s concerns, they are legitimate,” Councilman Michael Schumacher said. “Over the past months and years, it’s really be oriented around Cerezo. I would be in favor of … the roundabout at Cannon and signal at Cerezo. And have the center lane all the way through.”
However, a wrench was thrown into the discussion when former Carlsbad Planning Commissioner Kerry Siekmann said the great unknown is what will become of the Encina Power Plant. She favored two traffic signals.
Although the decision and plans for the power plant (a smaller peaker plant will be constructed behind the original facility leaving a massive area open) are still years away, Siekmann said it is worth considering, especially if it is easier to remove traffic signals and install roundabouts, rather than the opposite.
“I believe that big changes are going to happen because of the tear down at the power plant,” she added. “I wouldn’t change that intersection until I knew what was going to affect that intersection.”
Barberio said traffic modeling considered future buildout traffic on the power plant site based on the current General Plan land use designations for the site.
Regardless, most of the speakers commended city staff on its work, with many noting it is an impossible project due to the constraints of boulevard, which the city took ownership of in 1953.
Another quirk of the project, meanwhile, is part of the plan must be approved by the California Coastal Commission, while the city retains control over much of the southern portion of the project. Construction, meanwhile, will not begin, at the earliest, until late 2021 with an estimated completion date of spring 2022 or, more likely Barberio said, fall 2022.
As for the bluff top across from the power plant, it received universal praise during the meeting and was hardly a topic of discussion. It will feature more natural components such as two wood-based stairways leading to the beach, benches, wider sidewalks and erosion prevention measures.
Correction: An earlier version of this story reported Gary Barberio said the city had not considered traffic impacts at the power plant site once a new project is completed. City staff did take into account the future impacts. We regret the error.