Traffic calming, complete streets a driving force in general plan update

Traffic calming, complete streets a driving force in general plan update
Planning Commissioner Hap L’Heureux, second from left, clarifies how roundabouts impact traffic by asking a question of Senior Traffic Engineer Doug Bilse on Feb. 19. Photo by Rachel Stine

CARLSBAD — Hoping to address perpetual traffic issues, Carlsbad’s traffic division is making traffic calming strategies and complete street concepts a driving force in the upcoming general plan update.

When senior traffic engineer Doug Bilse looks at traffic intersections, a mall parking lot, and residential streets, he sees the potential for change and the opportunity to enhance the city’s “small town, beach community feel and connectedness.”

Speaking before the Planning Commission at its Feb. 19 meeting, he said that Carlsbad is experiencing a number of traffic issues caused by its suburban development.

He said that too much of the public transportation space is dedicated to pavement. He also cited that Carlsbad has too many traffic signals and speeding in residential areas has become a problem.

Part of the solution is the idea of complete streets, or designing public transportation ways to encourage all modes of travel by pedestrians and bicyclists and not just cars.

Bilse said that Carlsbad’s roads could be improved by changing sidewalks from slabs of concrete to walkways with trees, benches, and artwork. He advocated for more visible crosswalks and bike lanes, plus adding roundabouts instead of signals and stop signs.

“Complete streets really end up creating a sense of space,” he said, adding that better walkways can help attract more customers for local businesses. “They help the communities and the businesses.”

Bilse also proposed that the city cut back on the number of traffic signals on its roadways.

Currently there are about 170 traffic signals at intersections throughout the city.

He said the rule of thumb in traffic engineering is to have one traffic light for every 1,000 people in the city.

For Carlsbad’s population of just over 100,000 people, Bilse said, “We are just off the charts.”

A couple commissioners asked if it is possible to replace some of the city’s traffic lights with other traffic calming measures such as a roundabout.

Bilse explained that it is possible, but cities are often hesitant to do so to avoid spending tens of thousands of dollars.

He also brought forth several options for traffic calming, particularly in residential areas.

The city has recently added several stop signs in neighborhoods purely to prevent speeding.

For the most part, many of Bilse’s suggestions remain ideas and are not planned projects.

The city has started construction on its first roundabout at the intersection of State Street and Carlsbad Boulevard, which will cost about $1.5 million in total.

Though excited about the coming improvement, Bilse has his eye on several other locations along Carlsbad Boulevard for more roundabouts and traffic lights that he thinks the city could do without.

But the focus on complete streets and traffic calming incorporated into the city’s upcoming general plan update will pave the way for future improvements.

“We’re going to be looking at moving people, not cars,” he said.

Bilse hopes that the traffic division will be able to conduct more studies to establish what traffic strategies enhance safety and improve the travelling experience throughout the city.



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