By Elena and John Thompson
Many thanks to the current City Council and mayor for working on implementing their 2017 Strategic Goal relating to “mobility” in Encinitas. It’s finally starting to become apparent that the work plan is truly “in process” as we note positive changes happening around us. For this, we are grateful!
Mobility means a lot of things, but essentially, our local city leadership has recognized that over time, Encinitas streets have become clogged with people in cars; we have a lot of traffic; too many tragic and avoidable pedestrian and cycling incidents (hit-and- runs and even deaths); too high of vehicle speeds on our roadways, the modern- day distraction of drivers (cell phones and texting) and roadways that were designed both pre-incorporation of the City of Encinitas (1986) and shortly thereafter when the population was a fraction of what it is today.
All of this has over time added up to a city with many unsafe and outdated roads and streets that are not user friendly and actually impede true mobility in our city.
Contemplate our current mobility dilemma (and opportunities) when you consider that our City is growing faster than you might want and the elected officials in Sacramento are requiring Encinitas to build another 1,600 housing units to accommodate a growing population all within three years (aka, Encinitas Housing Update now in process). How will we all get around town we might ask ourselves and what will things look like?
The City Council’s aim behind the mobility initiative is to make Encinitas a more mobile city, where one may choose to travel by car, bike, foot, bus or train and be assured of viable and safe infrastructure to do so. In fact, this too is being mandated by Sacramento leadership, also known as CA-SB 7842 or the “Complete Street Act.”
Just look around California and the U.S. to see what other cities and towns are doing to make their towns and roads more mobility and user friendly. There are countless local examples including local Carlsbad, Bird Rock-La Jolla, Solana Beach, Del Mar, Vista and San Marcos, to name a few. It’s a fundamental truth in planning and transportation circles that safety is a function of roadway design and unsafe and outdated roadways (Highway 101 in Leucadia case in point!) cause accidents and pose safety and liability issues for cities.
Changing roadway design is the way to change driver behavior, slow speeds, enhance flow and encourage multi-user access to roads. A renaissance in roadway design is taking place across the USA (and the globe) to right the situation of outdated roads and streets that do not accommodate today’s growing population or provide for safety and recreational needs.
Transportation treatments such as roundabouts, narrower travel lanes, wider sidewalks, pop-outs, bulb outs and buffered bike lanes are just a few of the elements being utilized to improve mobility. Sometimes, paint (re-striping) is simply the starting point; certainly paint is the easiest and most economical option available!
Initiated in 2008 and approved in 2010, the North Coast Highway 101 Streetscape in Leucadia (the continuation of the Encinitas Streetscape which was completed in 2003) is soon to be breaking ground incorporating well known, tried and true mobility principles that once completed, will make for the former Highway 101, built long before the I-5 was completed, a veritable “livable & Complete Street.”
Also known as the “Leucadia Streetscape,” the North Coast Highway 101 Streetscape promises to:
• Greatly improve the safety and efficiency of the roadway for all uses (vehicles, pedestrians, bikes, skateboarders, wheelchairs)
• Change the design of the roadway and incorporate roundabouts, resulting in better and safer flow of vehicles and more appropriate speeds for a city main street
• Greatly improve the quality of life for the surrounding neighborhoods by enabling people to walk and bike safety in their town, access beaches and local shops and eateries
• Make for a more accessible downtown 101 corridor and enhanced access by ped and bike to area beaches (not simply by car)
• Provide more parking opportunities with additional spaces both on the 101 and along the rail corridor right of way (+135)
• Create a beautiful linear park-like esthetic with the inclusion of 1,000 new native trees to be planted along the 101 corridor/main street
• Reduce greenhouse gases with soon to be fewer cars idling, backing up, waiting at stop signs and signals and more trees to offset carbon emissions
• End the historic drainage issues that have plagued businesses and residences over the decades, with the installation of new drainage
• Reduce the city’s liability by addressing the current roadway infrastructure & design to prioritize public safety along this stretch of Leucadia’s main street
Funding for this project has been allocated by the City on an annual basis since the Streetscape approval back in 2010. The City has held off from investing in downtown Leucadia over this same time period and prior, despite the growth in property taxes, sales taxes, TOT taxes, traffic mitigation fees, all the while, saving up for this key capital infrastructure project.
The community is ready to re-claim and re-purpose the former Highway 101 as a livable and Complete Street and looks forward to the numerous benefits to be had including improved overall safety, improved quality of life, economic benefits, visual aesthetics and environmental and social benefits!
Elena and John Thompson are 30-year Leucadia residents