CARLSBAD — A proposed roundabout at the intersection of Carlsbad Boulevard and Tamarack Avenue has received mixed results from residents, with many expressing concerns over potential safety issues along the busy thoroughfare.
City staff has twice presented an updated redesign to the Traffic and Mobility Commission. Some residents support a roundabout, while others believe a circuitous junction would only lead to more congestion and collisions.
The staff redesign has presented two options for the intersection: installing an upgraded signal, sidewalks, crosswalks and other features, or constructing a roundabout, reducing the roadway to a single lane in each direction between Hemlock Avenue and the Agua Hedionda Lagoon bridge.
The issue will come before the City Council later this year.
“We recognize it’s a change, and people have concerns,” said Tom Frank, the city’s transportation director. This … effort is to have the coastline serve a more balanced roadway.”
According to Frank, the issue has drawn thousands of responses from residents as the city continues to move Carlsbad Boulevard away from a “highway”-type roadway. Frank said the goals are manifold, including improving traffic flow and safety, providing safer bike lanes and wider sidewalks, adding two crosswalks and shortening the distance for pedestrians to cross the road.
Frank said those characteristics would create a better level of service (LOS), align with the city’s 2015 Mobility Element and Safer Streets Together initiative, and reduce emissions. The city are looking at installing roundabouts at several intersections south of Palomar Airport Road and will install one in the Terramar Area Coastal Improvement Project.
Frank compared the city’s effort to La Jolla’s Bird Rock neighborhood, where the addition of roundabouts accomplished several goals, including reducing vehicle speeds and collisions. After analyzing and comparing data, Frank said the city’s installation of the State Street roundabout, which handles similar traffic numbers to Bird Rock, has been positive, especially regarding drivers under the influence.
“As for function, the best way to understand them is to experience them,” Frank said of roundabouts. “We have successful roundabout areas nearby.”
But residents Jason Oziel, Polly Williams and Steve Linke, the latter of whom served on the Traffic & Mobility Commission for four years, expressed several concerns with the proposed roundabouts, such as increased congestion, a lack of exit routes for residents west of Interstate 5 and challenges with cyclists and pedestrians.
Oziel and Linke said the State Street roundabout is one of the worst in the city, with a higher-than-normal collision rate, per the city’s data. Williams said when collisions occur on southbound I-5, Carlsbad Boulevard becomes the bypass and traffic piles up.
For example, last week, an accident on the freeway jammed up the thoroughfare with semi-trucks and commuters. Williams said it took her one hour to reach Encinitas, and there was no other option since she lives along Carlsbad Boulevard.
Oziel also noted three studies from 2015 showing the roundabout is not the city’s best option, reducing the level of service to a failing grade. Linke, who accused the city of “cherry picking” data, also pointed to SANDAG studies that indicate residents do not prefer the roundabout.
“Roundabouts have a purpose, but with the configuration of this intersection, a roundabout is not the best option,” Linke said. “The city is ramming this down our throats.”
The city’s plan for cyclists at the intersection is to create an entry point and bypass using the shared path where cyclists ride slow, dismount, walk the bike through the crosswalk and then remount in the shared pathway or bike lane. However, cyclists can merge into the roundabout.
People using the road make mistakes (like speeding, running stop signs and red lights, turning left in front of oncoming traffic), always have and always will. Crashes will always be with us, but they need not result in fatalities or serious injury.
Modern roundabouts are the safest form of intersection in the world – the intersection type with the lowest risk of fatal or serious injury crashes – (much more so than comparable signals). Modern roundabouts require a change in speed and alter the geometry of one of the most dangerous parts of the system – intersections. The reduction in speed to about 20 mph and sideswipe geometry mean that, when a crash does happen at a modern roundabout, you might need a tow truck, but rarely an ambulance. Visit the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety or FHWA for modern roundabout FAQs and safety facts.
The FHWA has been saying for over 20 years that signal intersections have TEN TIMES the fatality risk of modern roundabouts.