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Residents weigh in on Saxony Road traffic calming

Marilyn McGrath moved just off Saxony Road in Encinitas about seven years ago. Since then, she estimates that traffic has doubled on the thoroughfare.

“For a pedestrian, Saxony is dangerous,” McGrath said. She added that while walking on the road, she’s had a few close calls with speeding cars.

McGrath was among 50 or so residents who shared concerns and recommended ways to slow down traffic on Saxony Road during an April 14 meeting.

The event was held at Seacrest Retirement Village, a member of the E3 Cluster, a year-old group made up of six organizations in the area.

E3 hosted the meeting to gain feedback on a comprehensive traffic-calming plan that it ultimately intends to take to the Encinitas City Council.

The group’s goal is to reduce the speed limit from 40 mph to 25 mph on the sections of Saxony Road and Quail Gardens Drive that run between Encinitas Boulevard and Leucadia Boulevard. The crowd cheered when this intent was mentioned during a presentation.

The city can’t simply post a lower speed limit on the streets, explained Dawn Wilson, senior associate with Fehr & Peers, a firm that E3 hired to develop the traffic-improvement plan.

Under state law, speed limits are set at the speed 85 percent of drivers stay at or below. On the two thoroughfares, the 85th percentile was about 40 mph when last measured in 2012.

So, the idea is to install improvements like roundabouts or medians and then re-measure speeds in the hopes of setting a new 25 mph limit.

Wilson outlined other traffic-calming options, including chicanes — a popout that puts a curve in the road, requiring drivers to slow their roll.

She said the city isn’t receptive to stoplights or large speed bumps, because the city considers the thoroughfares commuter roads, as well as emergency response routes.

“It’s very jarring for a patient and ambulance to have to go over a vertical speed bump,” Wilson said.

For her part, McGrath — the Encinitas resident — favored more sidewalks on Saxony Road, saying they would make pedestrians safer and get cars to reduce their speeds.

“The sidewalks on Saxony are really patchy,” McGrath said. “They need to be connected.”

At the beginning of the meeting, she shared the disconnected sidewalk problem on a blue sticky note and slapped it on a collection board labeled “concerns.”

Besides sidewalks, overlapping concerns on the board included the lack of crosswalks. And the Sheriff’s Department rarely enforces the speed limit, the sticky notes stated.

Later, with a map of Saxony Road in front of them, residents were invited to record their preferred method of slowing traffic. And they listed where such features could go.

Marjorie Fox, director of E3, walked around the room to get a sense of what residents were putting on the maps.

After the meeting, she said some residents recommended “bulb-outs” — sidewalk extensions — on the northern portion of the road, just south of Leucadia Boulevard.

Others suggested a roundabout near the Magdalena Ecke Family YMCA, with some saying a roundabout should go at Union Street, Fox stated.

“Overall, reducing the speed limit was the biggest desire,” she said.

While E3’s proposal to the council is still a ways away, members have already pitched in to fund traffic improvements.

Seacrest Village and the YMCA each contributed $10,000 for a $100,000 Saxony Road crosswalk that’s set to debut in June. The city paid the remaining cost.

Also, the Leichtag Foundation put up funds for soon-to-debut flashing signs displaying drivers’ speeds.

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

E3 also vocally supported a “senior zone” next to Seacrest Village that recently took the speed limit down to 25 mph, but only in that immediate area. For such a designation, adjacent senior facilities are necessary.

Fox said the senior zone is “a good start.”

“There’s more to come,” she said.


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