RANCHO SANTA FE — After years of planning, traffic circles are making their way into Rancho Santa Fe.
The subject came up on the Association’s Oct. 18 agenda.
“We have to be very careful because this issue hasn’t come up in a few years,” Vice President Anne Feighner said. “This has been a hot issue for a long time.”
“We want to make sure everyone knows it is coming down the pike,” Association President Roxana Foxx said.
The traffic circles are planned for the intersections of Del Dios and El Camino Del Norte; Paseo Delicias and El Montevideo-La Valle Plateada; and Paseo Delicias and Via de la Valle.
“The roundabouts are designed to function together as a system by requiring vehicles to slow, but not stop, as they move through the intersection,” Ivan Holler, assistant Association manger, told the board. “The roundabouts at El Camino Del Norte and Via de la Valle are designed as three-way intersections, while the roundabout at El Montevideo and La Valley Plateada is designed as a four-way intersection.”
He said the intersection of Paseo Delicias and Via de la Valle, because of its irregular shape, was the most complex. On the north side of this intersection, the western end of La Fremontia would be closed and would become a cul-de-sac.
Each of the roundabouts shares the same components of splitter islands to slow approaching traffic and align the vehicles to enter the circular flow of traffic. They will all also have a center landscaped islands and pedestrian and equestrian crosswalks.
“We are excited because it improves equestrian safety,” Director Rochelle Putnam said. “For those of us who cross Del Norte, that is a huge benefit.”
Feighner said she is concerned about unintended effects on others.
“Will people be able back out of their driveways?” she asked Holler.
Holler said they would be able to, even during the high-volume traffic hours.
Still, there are significant issues connected with the traffic circles, Holler said.
“The county will need to acquire additional right-of-way to construct the roundabouts, possibly through the use of eminent domain,” Holler said.
He said in some cases, the property owners will have the size of their front or side yards reduced or have their driveway relocated. Some trees will have to be removed.
The planning and controversy began more than a decade ago in 2000 when the Association began trying to find a way to improve the three intersections and reduce the cut-through traffic. After several years of work and four Covenant-wide meetings, the Final Environmental Impact Report is due within the next few weeks, Holler said.
He said the catalyst for the current traffic problems began more than 25 years ago when the city of Encinitas incorporated, effectively preventing the completion of Highway 680, a planned east-west route just north of the Covenant.
When the Association’s traffic counter was first installed in 2002, the average weekday traffic volume on Del Dios Highway was about 20,000 a day.
“Not only did this impact driving conditions on Del Dios Highway, it also had major impacts on residential side streets that were used as cut-through routes,” he said.
Residents offered several solutions to the problem from installing traffic lights to moveable barricades, but each had drawbacks.
In 2002 the county began considering traffic circles to solve the problem, Holler said.
In early 2003 the county conducted a feasibility study on the use of roundabouts as intersection control and the results were presented to the membership of the Association.
Shortly thereafter, the Association board voted to accept the Road and Traffic Committee’s recommendation for roundabouts and sent a letter to the Board of Supervisors in March 2004 to endorse the county’s plan of locating the three traffic circles.
Still many meetings followed with adjacent property owners, the membership at large, the equestrian community, Association staff and county representatives.
The county had to come up with special lighting that would meet the requirements of the Covenant’s Dark Sky policies.
The cost of the entire project will be borne by the county. Any additional landscaping will be picked up by the Association.