SOLANA BEACH — The city is seeking public input on plans to improve the intersection of Lomas Santa Fe and Highland drives after preliminary plans presented at the April 27 meeting received a less-than-enthusiastic response from council members.
Residents of the area, considered a gateway to the city, had expressed concerns about speeding along the roads and a lack of sidewalks. Community and council members also shared a desire to introduce a streetscape and traffic calming project to improve safety in the area.
Following a limited investigation, staff developed conceptual plans to address those issues, and in October a contract was awarded to Project Design Consultant for design alternatives.
Project elements include improvements to the intersection as well as on Highland from Lomas Santa Fe to 240 feet north of Sun Valley Road and between Lomas Santa Fe and Uno Verde Court. Plans also call for the addition of a sidewalk along the west side of Highland between Lomas Santa Fe and Sun Valley and bike lanes.
To slow traffic on Lomas Santa Fe, the proposed project would also include temporarily restriping that road to reduce it from four lanes to two from Las Banderas Drive to Highland. If that proved to slow traffic, improvements could be made permanent subject to available funding.
Mo Sammak, the city engineer, said traffic studies showed favorable results with the reduced lanes. Council members supported the idea, but said the change would likely cause concerns at first.
“Once we do this the phone’s going to ring off the hook for a while,” Councilman Tom Campbell said.
Modifications to the intersection of Lomas Santa Fe and Highland included curb pop-outs, curb ramps and a raised median.
A proposed realignment on Highland Drive north of Lomas Santa Fe would feature a midblock pedestrian crossing by the entrance to the county park, bike lanes, a 12-foot through lane, two left-turn lanes and elimination of the dedicated right-turn lane.
Campbell, who lives in the area, said removing the right-turn lane could be a problem. “You’re potentially creating a bottleneck,” he said.
Mayor Lesa Heebner also had problems with the proposal.
“There’s absolutely no aesthetic improvement that I can see,” she said. “This is just looking very stark to me. I’m a little disappointed … that I don’t see something that’s attractive in this.”
City Manager David Ott said because the consultants were working on a “lean” budget, design improvements weren’t included in the preliminary plans but there could be opportunities to add those elements in a later phase.
“I understand we have very limited funds and we’re doing what we can,” Heebner said. “I think it’s going to be an improvement but I sure had something different in my mind.”
The project is currently estimated to cost slightly more than $600,000. The city has funding available from Transnet and American Recovery and Reinvestment Act stimulus money.
Roger Boyd, a 27-year resident of the area, said the project needed more community input. Campbell agreed.
“These are going to be some pretty significant changes that we’re considering,” Campbell said. “I just want to make sure that we give people the opportunity to discuss this beforehand.”
He encouraged residents to weigh in when the revised project is presented to council at a future meeting.