Traffic calming, complete streets a driving force in general plan update

Traffic calming, complete streets a driving force in general plan update
Planning Commissioner Hap L’Heureux, second from left, clarifies how roundabouts impact traffic by asking a question of Senior Traffic Engineer Doug Bilse on Feb. 19. Photo by Rachel Stine

CARLSBAD — Hoping to address perpetual traffic issues, Carlsbad’s traffic division is making traffic calming strategies and complete street concepts a driving force in the upcoming general plan update.

When senior traffic engineer Doug Bilse looks at traffic intersections, a mall parking lot, and residential streets, he sees the potential for change and the opportunity to enhance the city’s “small town, beach community feel and connectedness.”

Speaking before the Planning Commission at its Feb. 19 meeting, he said that Carlsbad is experiencing a number of traffic issues caused by its suburban development.

He said that too much of the public transportation space is dedicated to pavement. He also cited that Carlsbad has too many traffic signals and speeding in residential areas has become a problem.

Part of the solution is the idea of complete streets, or designing public transportation ways to encourage all modes of travel by pedestrians and bicyclists and not just cars.

Bilse said that Carlsbad’s roads could be improved by changing sidewalks from slabs of concrete to walkways with trees, benches, and artwork. He advocated for more visible crosswalks and bike lanes, plus adding roundabouts instead of signals and stop signs.

“Complete streets really end up creating a sense of space,” he said, adding that better walkways can help attract more customers for local businesses. “They help the communities and the businesses.”

Bilse also proposed that the city cut back on the number of traffic signals on its roadways.

Currently there are about 170 traffic signals at intersections throughout the city.

He said the rule of thumb in traffic engineering is to have one traffic light for every 1,000 people in the city.

For Carlsbad’s population of just over 100,000 people, Bilse said, “We are just off the charts.”

A couple commissioners asked if it is possible to replace some of the city’s traffic lights with other traffic calming measures such as a roundabout.

Bilse explained that it is possible, but cities are often hesitant to do so to avoid spending tens of thousands of dollars.

He also brought forth several options for traffic calming, particularly in residential areas.

The city has recently added several stop signs in neighborhoods purely to prevent speeding.

For the most part, many of Bilse’s suggestions remain ideas and are not planned projects.

The city has started construction on its first roundabout at the intersection of State Street and Carlsbad Boulevard, which will cost about $1.5 million in total.

Though excited about the coming improvement, Bilse has his eye on several other locations along Carlsbad Boulevard for more roundabouts and traffic lights that he thinks the city could do without.

But the focus on complete streets and traffic calming incorporated into the city’s upcoming general plan update will pave the way for future improvements.

“We’re going to be looking at moving people, not cars,” he said.

Bilse hopes that the traffic division will be able to conduct more studies to establish what traffic strategies enhance safety and improve the travelling experience throughout the city.

 

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  1. Lynn Marr says:

    HUGE differences are obvious between the plan for Carlsbad’s first roundabout on PCH and the four one-lane, three-way T intersection roundabouts planned through Leucadia, beginning at El Portal, all within a little more than a two mile stretch.

    First of all, Carlsbad will not be planning and having engineered drawing, paid for with the help of TransNet tax monies, designed for FIVE roundabouts. Carlsbad is wisely doing more studies. Also, Carlsbad went through all the proper channels, and gave its citizens and adjacent residents due process of law. Importantly, Carlsbad is installing a Railtrail Corridor for bicycles and pedestrians. That’s how Carlbad was funded through TransNet taxes.

    Bicyclists, in Carlsbad, will not be forced to go through a one lane roundabout, when traffic has been narrowed down from what was four lanes on Historic Highway 101, to two lanes, one lane northbound, and one lane southbound, for motorists, AND bicycles, going through bottlenecking roundabouts, one after another, at 15 MPH.

    Encinitas has not complied with Coastal Act Law. In order to change the configuration of a four lane Major Arterial, primary circulation element, the City must first, legally, process a Coastal Development Permit, and General Plan, Specific Plan and Local Coastal Program amendments. Encinitas failed to do this. Mayor Barth had claimed this would be a good opportunity to “experiment,” so after the slurry seal, lines were redrawn, eliminating a lane northbound for motorists, and instead installing an unnecessarily wide, eight ft. bicycle lane, north of Leucadia Blvd in Feb. of 2013.

    City Traffic Engineers recommended AGAINST narrowing the highway south of Leucadia Blvd. Then WHY in the world is the initial roundabout planned SOUTH of Leucadia Blvd, at El Portal and 101? Crash statistics from a three year study do not justify roundabouts at ANY of the three way intersections. The rate of crashes is significantly below the average expected crashes at similar intersections, statewide.

    Moreover, taking out the lane, northbound has led to the Railtrail Corridor, for Enciniats, only extending from Chesterfield to G St. , in the foreseeable future. Statistically, bicyclists have more collisions in intersections with roundabouts than before they were installed. Moreover, the narrow diameter one-lane roundabouts have less safety features, and are NOT recommended by the U.S. Dept. of Transportation where cross street traffic is significantly less than the main thoroughfare. There will be NO cross streets for the Encinitas one-lane roundabouts, due to the RR tracks. The USDOT, also recommends against roundabouts where they could negatively impact traffic at RR crossings. The only RR crossing, for miles, is at Leucadia Blvd, which already has two roundabouts, one NEAR the tracks, at Hermes, and another roundabout, at Hygeia, supposedly to replace the stop sign, there, “in the works.”

    Roundabouts may be trendy, but they are not always a good solution for “moving people” efficiently and safely. Carlsbad has a different configuration than Leucadia, where many more people, here, are living in residences west of 101, including on Neptune, a northbound only first street beach access for our three local beaches, Stonesteps, Beacons, and Grandview. Unwanted and unneeded roundabouts, beginning at El Portal will negatively impact coastal access/egress by creating back-up and gridlock during peak periods, especially peak seasonal periods.

    Through Leucadia, the speed limit on Highway 101 has already been reduced to 35 MPH. There should be enforcement of that speed limit. The first phase of the planned roundabouts, here, is the northbound lane elimination. The Coastal Commission DENIED Encinitas a Coastal Development Permit exemption for elimination of the lane, northbound, for motorists. The Coastal Commission and Encinitas City staff, before the 1/30/13 City Council Meeting, recommended AGAINST eliminating the lane, without the requisite amendments to our General Plan, Specific Plan, Local Coastal Program, as well as first receiving an approved CDP and completing design review.

    The Coastal Commission has stated, unequivocally, that the City of Encinitas is now in ongoing violation of Coastal Act law, because Council directed the lines to be redrawn to eliminate a lane, despite staff and CCC direction to wait. Furthermore, there were not and have not been ANY before and after northbound lane elimination traffic impact studies during PEAK seasonal periods. The only month monitored, before, was October, an off month. So the so-called “experiment,” at the expense of local commuters and adjacent residents, cannot be successful, without an accurate, statistically significant basis for comparison.

    Bicyclists don’t need an eight-foot bike lane on the highway. According to California Motor Vehicle Code, bicyclists are to follow all the rules of the road as motorists. They are only allowed to ride more than single file when passing. Cars and bicyclists can share the road in Sharrows, and only in a Sharrow, could a bicyclist, going the speed of traffic, occupy the middle of the lane, and another bicyclist, in the same lane, be legal, riding on the right. Sheriff Captain Haley has reiterated that even in bicycle lanes, bicycles are to ride single file, which is also confirmed by the USDOT, as well as California Vehicle Code.

    Adjacent residents, beach-goers, local commuters and tourists all are opposed to these highway obstructions, which will actually put bicyclists at further risk, and which have “derailed” plans for the Coastal Railtrail Corridor to extend from Chesterfield all the way north to La Costa, because of the pre-mature, and unlawful northbound lane elimination. We are opposed to these obstructions because they will NOT eliminate stops during peak traffic periods, but will add to them, causing a ripple effect.

    Traffic already backs up on 101 between the stop light at Leucadia Blvd., which won’t be removed, and the stop sign at Marcheta. There is absolutely no guarantee that 101 stop sign would be removed, just as the stop sign at Hygeia and Leucadia Blvd. was never removed, as promised, and the additional sidewalks and landscaping never happened there, either.

    We object to these roundabouts because they will increase cut-through traffic, negatively impacting public health and safety as people, caught up in back-ups and bottlenecks divert to side streets, racing through residential/residential neighborhoods and a school zone, in their hurried frustration. Also, emergency response time along the coast in Leucadia is already subpar according to the City’s standards. Four one-lane roundabouts, added to the two already on Leucadia Blvd., with another “in the works,” would further slow emergency responses.

    There is only one other roundabout, on Santa Fe, in Cardiff, in Encinitas. Why are a total of eight planned for Leucadia? We don’t want them, don’t need them, and don’t deserve this lack of consideration, and waste of taxpayer dollars being forced upon us.

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