Leucadia roundabout proposal needs work, commissioners say

Encinitas City Hall
(File Photo | Brittany Woolsey)

A proposal to add a third traffic roundabout on Leucadia Boulevard needs additional study and the project’s planned sidewalks really ought to be expanded, the city’s Planning Commission decided Thursday, Oct. 3.

Commissioners voted 4-0, with Commissioner Brett Farrow absent, to postpone until “a date uncertain” their vote on the permits the estimated $3.5 million project would need to proceed.

“Before we start pouring concrete, I’d like to have some confidence (that the design will improve pedestrian safety) and I don’t have that confidence right now,” Commissioner Bruce Ehlers said.

The roundabout is proposed to go at Leucadia Boulevard’s intersection with Hygeia Avenue, a spot that’s now controlled by stop signs and sits between two existing roundabouts along Leucadia Boulevard west of Interstate 5.

The other two roundabouts -- one at Hymettus Avenue and one at Hermes Avenue -- were built more than a decade ago as part of the first phase of what’s called the Leucadia Boulevard Streetscape Project.

“Due to budget constraints and direction from the City Council and residents,” that project was split into two phases and construction of roundabout No. 3 was left for phase two, a city staff report states. At the Oct. 3 meeting, project manager Pete Milligan told the planning commissioners that the city was now taking steps to move forward with phase two. Design work could be mostly done by the end of this month and construction could begin next spring, he said.

However, commissioners said they wanted more information about how the roadway is functioning with the two existing roundabouts before they vote to add a third one.

“Since conditions have changed since we put in the first two, at least look at the conditions,” said Commissioner Glenn O’Grady, who lives in the area.

He and others on the commission said that study might show that there are benefits to dropping the roundabout idea at Hygeia and sticking with the stop signs.

“It’s been my impression that Hygeia acts as a break to stagger the cars going in either direction,” O’Grady said.

Commissioner Kevin Doyle, who also lives in the area and walks his son to school, said he wished this project did more for pedestrians, saying it called for some stretches of sidewalk but some of those new sidewalk segments wouldn’t connect to anywhere.

The crosswalks included in the proposed roundabout also could be better designed, commissioners said. They suggested adding raised crosswalk strips or even HAWK beacon crossing systems -- flashing lights embedded in the pavement that light up when pedestrians push a button.

Before they decided to postpone their vote, commissioners heard from six public speakers and all of them said they had concerns about pedestrian safety along Leucadia Boulevard. Two said they could support the roundabout proposal but wanted more sidewalk improvements, while three said they didn’t support the roundabouts and thought the city’s money could be better spent.

— Barbara Henry is a freelancer for The San Diego Union-Tribune