DEL MAR — A street and sidewalk improvement project designed to improve safety in the southernmost portion of the city finally got a green light.
Council members at the Aug. 7 meeting approved a revised design proposal for Camino del Mar between Carmel Valley Road and the Del Mar Heights Road/Fourth Street intersection.
Initial plans presented more than a year ago eliminated a free-right-turn lane from westbound Carmel Valley Road onto northbound Camino del Mar and one northbound lane on Camino del Mar in an effort to slow traffic and make the area safer for pedestrians and bicyclists.
Residents from Del Mar and the surrounding communities opposed those changes, saying they would worsen traffic that is already backed up during peak commute times.
There was also a recommendation to remove a left-turn-only lane from northbound Camino del Mar onto westbound Fourth Street.
According to the approved plans, those elements will remain as is, a decision residents seem to appreciate.
“Thanks for agreeing to maintain the continuous drive-through lane from Carmel Valley Road onto northbound CDM,” Allen Hall wrote in an email to the city. “That is an important feature that needs to be maintained.
“I am also satisfied that the new proposal does not include lane reductions for northbound CDM,” he added. “That proposed change would be a major problem.”
A left-turn lane from southbound Camino del Mar onto eastbound Del Mar Heights Road will be added.
The bike lanes through the intersection of Carmel Valley Road and Camino del Mar will be painted green for added visibility and delineation, similar to what was done on Camino del Mar and Jimmy Durante Boulevard north of downtown.
A multiuse path varying between 8 and 10 feet wide will be built on the west side of Camino del Mar from Fourth Street to Carmel Valley Road.
Allen said he thought that addition is “waste of resources.”
“We should leave that area for bikes and encourage pedestrians to walk through the neighborhood to the west,” he wrote.
All roads in the project area will be resurfaced and restriped to accommodate vehicles and buffered bike lanes.
Since no lanes will be eliminated, but the goal to slow traffic remains, Councilman Dave Druker recommended narrowing the lanes on Camino del Mar.
There were also concerns about pedestrian safety at the intersection of Del Mar Heights Road and Camino Del Mar because cars making right turns onto Del Mar Heights, who have a green light, don’t always see people crossing, who have the walk signal to do so.
City Manager Scott Huth said that could be addressed by better light synchronization.
Some council members aren’t completely satisfied with the improvements.
“I don’t think we’ve gone far enough to address the safety concerns,” Councilwoman Ellie Haviland said. “The intersection at Carmel Valley Road still feels like it’s not a safe intersection for bicycles.
“Maybe we see how it goes and if we’re not happy with the results we can keep this on the list as something to look at in the near future,” she added. “A roundabout at that intersection, I think, would address both bike safety and car safety.
“I would like to be open about things like that if this doesn’t address the issue because there was no new data collected to show that eliminating that right-hand-turn lane was going to cause problems,” Haviland said. “I’m also concerned that we haven’t done enough to address pedestrians crossing safely at the path that comes down from the neighborhood above (east of Camino del Mar).”
Mayor Terry Sinnott agreed.
“I just would love to somehow redo those steps so that at least somebody could stand there and be safe and not be in any travel lane, could see both ways before they step out and try to cross that area,” he said.
Huth said he would try to address that issue, as well as narrowing the lanes and synchronizing the lights, as the design moves forward.
The project cost is estimated to be $1.3 million. The city budgeted for most of it but is currently about $430,000 short. City officials plan to apply for grant funding to help narrow that gap.
Construction will begin no earlier than November, after the Breeders’ Cup at the Del Mar Fairgrounds. The most impactful work is expected to be completed before next summer.
A traffic speed survey will then be conducted to determine if lower speed limits are warranted in the project area.