Three roundabouts to be in next Streetscape phase, Encinitas decides

A rendering of proposed improvements at Jupiter Street.

Coast Highway renovation project restructured due to construction cost concerns 


The next phase of the long-planned Coast Highway 101 overhaul in Leucadia will include three proposed traffic circle roundabouts, but two blocks of proposed roadway improvements will be eliminated as a cost-saving measure, the Encinitas City Council decided Wednesday, May 19.

It’s not ideal, but it’s the best choice from a safety perspective, council members said as they debated between two staff-recommended options for getting more of the Leucadia Streetscape project done.

“I think the Grandview (Street) roundabout is critical,” Councilwoman Kellie Shay Hinze said, noting that it is a popular beach access route.

Councilman Tony Kranz agreed, saying, “Grandview as the missing roundabout isn’t very attractive.”

Encinitas has been pursuing plans to renovate a 2.5-mile stretch of Coast Highway in Leucadia for some 15 years. Plans call for new sidewalks, bike lanes and landscaping as well as drainage improvements and the elimination of a vehicle lane.

After the global pandemic hit last spring, the council decided to break the project into phases rather than doing it all at once. The first segment — a .4-mile stretch from Marcheta Street to Basil Street — is now under construction and that work is estimated to cost $8.9 million.

Construction costs have soared nationally in recent months, and improvements to the rest of the roadway are now forecast to cost anywhere from $37 million to $47 million, city employees said earlier this month. The city’s finance director has advised the council not to borrow any more than $20 million right now given the city’s current debt load from previous projects and that has forced a rethinking of the Streetscape plans.

With a $20 million borrowing limit in mind, city employees presented the council with two options for smaller-scale versions of Streetscape, each expected to cost less than $20 million. The first option called for renovating all of the coastal highway route from Phoebe Street to Moorgate Road, but only included two roundabouts — ones at Jupiter Street and Bishop’s Gate Road.

The second option — the one the council ultimately selected — included both those two roundabouts, plus one at Grandview, but terminated the roadway renovation efforts at Jupiter Street rather than continuing two blocks southward to Phoebe.

Kranz said for him there was no question that all three roundabouts had to be the priority.

“I think their value for pedestrians and traffic calming is significant,” he said.

He asked that improvements to the two-block stretch between Jupiter and Phoebe streets be included on a list of “additive alternates” that the city asks contractors to bid on in case extra money comes available. That list also includes a decomposed granite pathway from A Street to Jupiter or Phoebe, something that Mayor Catherine Blakespear said was a top priority for her.

Now that the council’s made its choice, the next step will be seeking amendments to state permits to reflect the changes in the plans and then putting together a bid package, city employees said. They estimated they’ll need nine to 12 months to get to the construction stage.

This new phase of work will be located in an area that’s between the busy Leucadia Boulevard and La Costa Avenue intersections. The Streetscape renovation work that’s currently under way is farther to the south and there will end up being a gap between the two renovated sections, if the phase two work proceeds as currently proposed.

Blakespear noted that as a cost-cutting measure the next phase of construction work is proposed to only focus on the west side of the roadway. Unlike the current construction project, the east side isn’t included.

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