Intersection improvements, ranging from roundabouts to traffic lights, will be studied
Reworking a left-turn area of southbound Rancho Santa Fe Road where it intersects with Encinitas Boulevard could be the first of a series of changes aimed at resolving the roadway’s tremendous commuter traffic troubles.
Funding for the Encinitas Boulevard intersection project already has been committed and final design work is occurring now, city traffic engineer Abraham Bandegan said. The project should improve southbound traffic flow during the peak morning commute.
Upwards of 13,000 vehicles a day travel the roadway, which connects Carlsbad’s La Costa region to eastern parts of Del Mar. Southbound traffic typically backs up for several miles from the Encinitas Boulevard intersection northward to the Carlsbad city limits in the mornings. There’s a similar problem every afternoon on the northbound side of the roadway as vehicles creep through a series of seven, stop-sign controlled intersections before reaching the traffic light at Calle Acervo at the edge of Carlsbad’s city limits.
Resolving the afternoon traffic backup problem is a thornier issue. Everything from roundabouts to traffic lights have been proposed for some of the seven, stop sign-controlled intersections. Next month, the City Council is expected to consider funding for an estimated $50,000 study of existing roadway conditions as well as several options for making changes.
The proposed study, which was suggested by a city task force, will give “real data” on what’s causing the extensive backups and what impact adding a few traffic lights, or even some roundabouts, might have, said City Councilman Joe Mosca, who lives near the roadway and formed the task force.
“I think a lot of people have their own ideas of what’s causing the p.m. congestion; they think they know (but this study will provide proof),” he said Friday, Oct. 11.
The task force has asked for the study to focus on whether adding traffic lights at two Rancho Santa Fe Road intersections -- the one at Long Jack Road/11th Street and the one at El Camino Del Norte/Lomas De Oro Court -- could improve conditions. However, that in no way means that the city will definitely pursue installing traffic lights, Mosca stressed.
“There will be no traffic signals unless the community wants it,” he said, noting that there currently is a belief among some Olivenhain area residents that the stop signs provide a significant benefit because they slow vehicle speeds along the roadway.
At a City Council meeting in late September when Mosca discussed the study proposal, Councilman Tony Kranz said there were other issues to consider, including the fact that Olivenhain is a “dark skies” community where the use of street lights is discouraged.
“The idea of signalization surprises me a little bit,” he told Mosca.
Mayor Catherine Blakespear said she wanted the proposed study to look into whether adding roundabouts instead of traffic lights would be a better option. The city’s traffic engineer told her the consultants that the city hires for the project could look at how roundabouts might impact traffic flow, but said that the question of whether there’s space enough to actually fit roundabouts into the roadway is an engineering issue and “something this study would not address.”
While changes to the stop-signed intersections are still up in the air, construction work on the improvements to the Encinitas Boulevard intersection with Rancho Santa Fe Road could occur some time next year, Bandegan said, adding that they haven’t yet set an exact start time because they’re waiting to find out whether the Olivenhain Municipal Water District will do a water line improvement project in the area in the near future. If so, the two projects will be timed so that they occur together, he said.
The city’s intersection improvement plan calls for adding a second left-turn lane to southbound Rancho Santa Fe Road, repaving and re-striping the roadway, and adjusting the timing of the traffic signal.
— Barbara Henry is a reporter for The San Diego Union-Tribune