DEL MAR — There are residents who support a proposal to narrow Camino del Mar to two lanes and add roundabouts. Others oppose it and some are skeptical.But at a Feb. 6 public workshop to discuss traffic alternatives for downtown revitalization, residents and council members seemed to agree that doing nothing shouldn’t be an option.
“People are understandably concerned when you’re thinking about making such a big change to downtown,” resident Linda Rock said. “What we have now doesn’t work so the do-nothing alternative … isn’t going to help because we have a problem.”
“I think doing nothing doesn’t make sense,” Howard Gad said. City Councilman Mark Filanc agreed.
“Doing nothing is not acceptable,” he said.
Surveys, traffic studies and public input led city staff to create three alternatives to be addressed in an environmental impact report that will be presented as part of revitalization efforts.
One plan was to maintain status quo with four lanes and stop signs. According to traffic studies, Camino del Mar was designed to handle about 15,500 vehicle trips per day but is currently carrying about 18,700 cars.
The result is congestion, increased auto emissions and safety concerns, Planning Director Kathy Garcia said.
Compared to the other alternatives, this option resulted in the longest crossing distance for pedestrians, the most safety concerns, the lowest opportunity to add on-street parking, the greatest impact on air quality and noise and the highest potential to divert traffic onto adjacent neighborhoods.
It also had the least impact on businesses and lowest construction costs.
Another option is to keep four lanes but replace the stop signs with signals. This would increase capacity to 30,000 cars a day, but makes the area more auto-oriented and there’s a potential for faster speeds, Garcia said.
It would moderately affect air quality and noise and provide low walkability and on-street parking opportunities, but has the lowest potential to divert traffic onto side streets, she said.
The final option would be to reduce the roadway to two lanes and install roundabouts at all intersections in the project area, from Ninth Street to 15th Street, which would result in 22,000 to 26,000 cars per day.
Air quality and noise impacts would be lowest with roundabouts. Walkability would be higher and about 50 on-street parking spaces could be added. The potential to divert traffic onto neighborhood streets is moderate, Garcia said.
This option would be the most costly and impacts would be greater on businesses in the short-term, she said. It is also one of the hardest for some residents to comprehend.
“I am neutral on this,” David Goodell, a 35-year resident and owner of The Frustrated Cowboy, said. “I just don’t understand it.”
“I didn’t believe it either when they told me that the roundabouts would carry, with two lanes … the same amount or more traffic than what we currently have,” Garcia said.
Dawn Wilson, the city traffic engineer, presented video simulations that showed how that was possible.
She said at an intersection designed so cars stop, pedestrians control how many vehicles can pass through per hour. Currently, people take approximately 20 seconds to go between 70 and 80 feet across traffic to get from one side of Camino del Mar to the other.
With roundabouts they would cross one lane at a time and take about three to four seconds, Wilson said. Because they cross before the roundabout starts there would be fewer “opportunities” for cars to hit people — eight compared to 28 in the existing intersections, she said.
Some residents who support revitalization were concerned the roundabout option could derail redevelopment efforts. Because adoption of a specific plan for revitalization requires voter approval, they suggested splitting the two issues on the November ballot.
But council members said they preferred to present it as one package, at least for now. They did, however, appreciate other solutions offered.
John Kerridge suggested using the traffic signals at Via de la Valle and Carmel Valley Road to regulate the flow of traffic into the small beach community. He also said the city should consider using sensors embedded in the roadway to control the flow of traffic and monitor traffic density in real time.
“These technologies may sound a little esoteric but they’re all available now and in use in other places,” Kerridge said.
“I’m very happy to hear comments … instead of hearing, ‘I don’t want it,’” Councilwoman Lee Haydu said.
Councilman Don Mosier said he supported roundabouts because they would achieve several city goals, including increasing public safety and providing continuous traffic flow. They are also the healthy alternative for residents, he said.
“I’m not sure we want 30,000 cars a day going through the city,” he said, adding that roundabouts also provide more funding options through green growth.
Only one of the 101 residents who spoke supported signalized intersections, while Al Corti said he thought the key to revitalization was modifying density and building heights requirements.
“I don’t think it needs Camino del Mar to change,” he said.
At least five more workshops to refine the redevelopment plans are scheduled. The next one will be during the Feb. 21 meeting and address development parcels. Residents can continue to provide input online at firstname.lastname@example.org.