ENCINITAS — The cities of Solana Beach and Encinitas are working together to explore infrastructure options that will allow residents to safely cross Coast Highway 101 between Cardiff State Beach and the popular Harbaugh Seaside Trails.
At this site, which runs directly along the northern boundary of Solana Beach and the southern edge of Encinitas, residents can frequently be seen running across Highway 101 between the park and beach entrances that directly face each other.
Solana Beach residents expressed concerns about the potential for accidents at this site during an April 12 City Council meeting and urged the city to commit to plans for a crossing option that would not impede coastal views.
“This is a public safety issue. There’s people literally running across the street, across 101, which is a very busy highway, to do this. I think it’s just a matter of time before there is an accident,” resident Kristen Brinner told the council.
Last year, the two cities funded a study identifying three potential crossing options. These included a pedestrian bridge over the 101 that would cost around $2.5 million, a pedestrian tunnel underneath the highway for about $1.5 million, and a signalized crosswalk for about $500,000.
Encinitas Assistant City Manager Jennifer Campbell said the two cities would need to gather feedback from residents and agree on the type of crossing in the future.
“Encinitas and Solana Beach have been working collaboratively to explore a new pedestrian crossing of [South] 101 at our cities’ border,” Campbell said. “The next step will be to present the concepts to both City Councils at future public meetings to get City Council and resident feedback. Once consensus is reached on the type of crossing, staff will work to fund design and permitting for the crossing.”
In Solana Beach, community members expressed disdain toward traffic lights, noting that they would obstruct the views of the San Elijo Lagoon and the beach.
“It’s ironic we’re now talking about erecting two traffic lights on either side of Highway 101 smack dab in the middle of the view we’ve worked so hard to protect,” said 39-year resident Gerri Retman, who led the movement to preserve the land alongside San Elijo Lagoon now known as Harbaugh Seaside.
Solana Beach leaders echoed their opposition to large traffic lights, which Mayor Lesa Heebner said they also discussed with Encinitas leaders.
“Knock on wood, we haven’t had any accidents there, and hopefully, that will not happen. But I think we are all in agreement that we don’t want any traffic lights,” Heebner said. “In order to prevent Encinitas from doing that, I think we need to look at our own solution and get going on it soon.”
Retman suggested implementing signage reminding residents of the existing pedestrian crossing at Solana Vista Drive, just south of the southern Harbaugh entrance, or putting a barrier at the trail across from Cardiff State Beach.
“Currently this dirt path [at Harbaugh] leads walkers directly to Highway 101. They have no idea not to cross there,” Retman said.
Councilmember Dave Zito supported the idea of redirecting residents until a more permanent solution can be found.
“I cross this particular location myself daily to Cardiff State Beach. This summer I bet we will see hundreds of people doing it per day,” Zito said. “I just see this issue getting worse, and so it’s important for us to do what we can to make it safe.”