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Part of Saxony Road to be treated as a ‘senior zone’

The Encinitas City Council recently determined a new crosswalk isn’t enough to slow down traffic on Saxony Road.

The council on Jan. 28 unanimously approved a “senior zone” adjacent to Seacrest Village Retirement Community. The zone, complete with reduced-speed limit warning signs and pavement markings, will take down the speed limit from 40 mph to 25 mph in the area.

While school zones are only active when children are present, the senior zone will always be in effect, said Ed Deane, senior civil engineer with the city.

For years, residents have pushed for traffic-calming measures on Saxony Road, stating it’s unsafe to cross the street due to fast-moving cars. In response, the council in December approved a crosswalk on Saxony Road to help seniors at Seacrest Village cross the street to the Magdalena Ecke Family YMCA.

At the Jan. 28 meeting, the council commended city staff for identifying the senior zone designation as a way to further slow down traffic on the road.

“I applaud you for finding the senior zone within the vehicle code,” Deputy Mayor Catherine Blakespear said.

The council also directed city staff to gauge whether the senior zone could extend south to Encinitas Boulevard. However, it appears the zone can’t be expanded.

After the meeting, Rob Blough, city traffic engineer, said the zone is only enforceable when adjacent to a senior facility, as per the California Vehicle Code.

Deane said the senior zone is fitting given that Seacrest Village is right there. He added Seacrest Village seniors use the bus stop across the street, providing more justification for the designation.

This marks the first senior zone in the city. And eventually, the Sheriff’s Department will enforce the new speed limit there.

However, Deane said there would be a “transition period” where the Sheriff’s Department focuses on educating the public about the senior zone over enforcement.

It will cost $1,000 to install the traffic signs and pavement markings for the senior zone, according to the staff report.

As part of the same motion, the council also approved the location of the Saxony Road crosswalk. With the option to either place the crosswalk at the northern or southern end of Seacrest Village, the council chose the southern portion at a cost of $120,000.

The southern option is $40,000 more expensive than the northern alternative, because it requires building a retaining wall and additional construction.

However, as city staff pointed out, the southern location will allow those turning out of Seacrest Village or the YMCA to better see pedestrians in the area and oncoming cars.

Councilwoman Lisa Shaffer said the southern alternative is much safer.

“A potential life-saving design makes a lot of sense,” Shaffer said.

Pam Ferris, the president and CEO of Seacrest Village, spoke in favor of the crosswalk and senior zone.

“This is great for not only today, but the future,” she said.

Seacrest Village is an E3 member, a collective that formed last spring to collaborate on shared goals and education initiatives on Saxony Road and nearby Quail Gardens Drive.

E3 has pledged financial support for traffic-calming infrastructure on the roads to bring down speeds. For instance, Seacrest Village and the YMCA, another E3 member, will each contribute $10,000 for the Saxony Road crosswalk.

The city will pay the remaining $100,000.

Other E3 members include the Leichtag Foundation, the San Dieguito Heritage Museum, San Diego Botanic Garden and the Encinitas Union School District.


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