Encinitas council backs crosswalks


Those advocating for slower traffic on Saxony Road and Quail Gardens Drive recently had cause to celebrate.

The Encinitas City Council voted 4-0 Dec. 10 to approve crosswalks on both Saxony and Quail Gardens, as well as nearby signs flashing drivers’ speeds.

Six public speakers said the two major roads, from Leucadia Boulevard to the north and Encinitas Boulevard to the south, have become unsafe with so many cars speeding past.

“They’ve become a veritable racetrack,” said Dick Stern, president of the Encinitas Ranch Community Association. He added the problem is due to get worse thanks to a 60-home development in the area that will soon open.

A new educational cluster called E3, made up of six organizations located on the roads, pledged to kick in money for the crosswalks and signs. That way, the city doesn’t have to pick up the entire tab.

Jim Farley, CEO of the Leichtag Foundation, an E3 member, said the crosswalks and signs are a step in the right direction. Looking long-term, Farley said E3 hired a traffic consultant to identify additional infrastructure that would further reduce the speed limits.

E3’s ultimate goal is bring down the speed limit on the two roads from 40 mph to 25 mph.

“As organizations that serve thousands in our community, we have a responsibility to ensure our constituents’ utmost safety,” Farley said.

E3, which also includes the San Diego Botanic Garden, Encinitas Union School District, Seacrest Village Retirement Community, the San Dieguito Heritage Museum and Magdalena Ecke Family YMCA, formed last spring to collaborate on educational initiatives.

The Saxony Road crosswalk, complete with pedestrian-activated lights, a handicap access ramp and an overhead safety light, is intended to help seniors at Seacrest Village walk across the road to the YMCA. Right now, quick-moving traffic deters seniors from frequenting the YMCA, E3 representatives said.

According to Farley, the YMCA and Seacrest Village will each contribute $10,000 toward the $100,000 crosswalk cost.

And the Leichtag Foundation will pitch in half of the $80,000 cost for eight signs showing drivers’ speeds, which will be strategically placed throughout the two roads, between Leucadia Boulevard and Encinitas Boulevard, Farley stated.

Studies have shown the signs reduce speeds from 2 mph to 4 mph, according to Rob Blough, the city’s traffic engineer.

The Quail Gardens Drive crosswalk aims to protect students at the Encinitas Union School District’s new 10-acre farm. District Superintendent Tim Baird said students at the farm would probably use the crosswalk to visit the Botanic Garden just across the street.

And EUSD could potentially contribute toward the $15,000 Saxony crosswalk, according to E3 officials.

Because the farm is a school site, under state law, signs stating “25 mph when children are present” will be posted adjacent to the site by the end of the year.

Once the crosswalks and signs are installed on Saxony and Quail Gardens, the city plans to remeasure speeds as legal justification for posting a lower speed limit.

Under state law, limits are set at the speed that 85 percent of drivers stay at or below on a road, rounded up or down to the nearest 5 mph increment. When last recorded, the “85th percentile” exceeded 40 mph on Quail Gardens and Saxony, according to a staff report.

With city staff, residents and E3 collaborating on a vision for the traffic-calming improvements, voting for the crosswalks and signs was an “easy decision,” Councilman Mark Muir said.

The Quail Gardens crosswalk and the flashing signs are expected to debut within six months, though the Saxony Road crosswalk could take a little longer because city staff still has to design the project and put it out to bid.

Public speaker Rodger Bolus presented a petition with 25 signatures, from homeowners bordering Quail Gardens, in favor of the traffic-calming improvements.

“We feel this is a safety issue and adversely impacts our lives,” said Bolus, reading from the petition.

Councilwoman Lisa Shaffer, at the advice of the city attorney, recused herself from the agenda item because she lives within 500 feet of Quail Gardens.