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Encinitas to add stop signs at La Costa, Vulcan intersection

The downtown Encinitas sign.
(Charlie Neuman / San Diego Union-Tribune/Zuma Pre)

Long-term plans for traffic lights or roundabout up in the air

Encinitas will add an all-way stop sign at La Costa and Vulcan avenues, but whether that will ultimately lead to a traffic light or even a roundabout at the busy intersection is very much an unsettled matter.

At a meeting May 26, the City Council unanimously agreed to pick the city traffic engineer’s Option 1 recommendation for improving the intersection — the “temporary” addition of stop signs in all directions — but divided over what the long-term solution ought to be.

Councilman Tony Kranz, whose council district includes the area, said he would prefer to build a roundabout, saying they’re much more effective than traffic lights.

“I think overall, I have some significant concerns about a traffic signal,” he said, mentioning that he thought having traffic lights might make it harder to make a right turn from Vulcan onto La Costa.

Councilwoman Kellie Shay Hinze, who represents the coastal region south of Kranz’ district, said she was feeling “pulled toward” the traffic light option because it was far less costly than a roundabout and could thus be installed quicker. She said she doesn’t really like stop signs, but would support them as a temporary measure because “the neighbors want it so much.”

Councilman Joe Mosca, who earlier in the evening sought funding for roadway restriping and other improvements to Rancho Santa Fe Road in his Olivenhain area district, said he was “definitely in favor” of stop signs, but wanted much more information about cost issues before he could support anything more than that.

“We need to have a discussion about what the future looks like and how we’re going to get to that future,” he said.

Councilwoman Joy Lyndes, who represents a district that primarily includes the city’s Cardiff region, and Mayor Catherine Blakespear, who lives in the Cardiff area, both said they were interested in a second, somewhat related project on La Costa Avenue — a proposed walkway along the south side of the roadway from its Vulcan Avenue intersection to a railroad bridge near Coast Highway 101.

“The thing I care about most is that walkway,” Blakespear said, later adding. “I’m a reluctant supporter of stop signs in general because I think they’re old technology.”

Lyndes said she thought the proposed walkway design could be improved to better accommodate wheelchair users.

People who live along or near La Costa Avenue have been lobbying the city for years to make extensive improvements to the roadway given its current traffic congestion issues and the amount of new development that’s happening or is proposed to happen along the corridor.

City Traffic Engineer Abe Bandegan told the council that the La Costa/Vulcan intersection’s current design isn’t “the geometry we’d like to see,” saying it has limited sight distance and turning left from La Costa onto Vulcan isn’t very convenient. Oddly enough, he said, there isn’t a substantial history of traffic accidents at the intersection and he believes that’s because most people who make the turn are familiar with how challenging it is.

His proposed Option 1 for improving the intersection calls for installing all-way stop signs at a cost of about $10,000. The impact of the stop signs on traffic flow along La Costa Avenue will be monitored and city employees will return to council with an update in six months, he said.

Option 2 called for the temporary installation of stop signs followed by a traffic signal. The traffic signal project was estimated to cost $400,000 and installation was forecasted to be complete in 12 to 18 months. It will take so long because signal poles are hard to come by these days; they’re on a six- to nine-month back order, Bandegan said.

Option 3 called for installing the stop signs and doing a roundabout feasibility study, which was estimated to cost $30,000. Bandegan said he had no estimate on what a roundabout would cost.

“We cannot talk about the cost of the roundabout because we don’t even know if it is going to be feasible (to create one at the intersection),” he said.

The walkway project is estimated to cost $80,000 and it’s forecasted to be a six-month project.

In other action Wednesday night, May 26, the City Council voted to repeal two housing related ordinances — a group home one and a density bonus one — as requested by state Housing and Community Development officials, who notified the city earlier this year that the ordinances didn’t comply with state law. The council vote to repeal the group home regulations was unanimous, while the density bonus vote was 4-1, with Kranz voting no.

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


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