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The approved Santa Fe Drive Corridor improvements will include new sidewalks, buffered bike lanes, landscaping and parking.
The approved Santa Fe Drive Corridor improvements will include new sidewalks, buffered bike lanes, landscaping and parking. File photo

Encinitas planners approve Santa Fe Drive Corridor improvements

ENCINITAS – The Encinitas Planning Commission last Thursday approved long-awaited improvements to the Santa Fe Drive Corridor with some features removed from previous iterations. 

The Santa Fe Drive Corridor, connecting I-5 to south El Camino Real, has been the subject of plans for road improvements since before the pandemic began in 2020. The original plans featured a roundabout and other proposals, but due to the pandemic, some changes were needed to make the project more fiscally attainable. 

Residents have expressed their disappointment in the loss of a roundabout but the city said construction of a circular intersection in the corridor may still be possible with future capital improvement projects. 

“There was certainly nobody who was happy that the roundabout got moved. It was a tough decision but we had to get something that would be feasible and would actually be built,” said Matt Widelski, the city’s senior engineer. “This pandemic has been a havoc on various things and prices so we had to try to get something that was able to be built.”

Commissioner Kevin Doyle urged members of the public who wish to see a roundabout in the corridor to participate in the city meetings regarding capital improvement projects. 

“This is when the real work of government happens, if we put money to it, it happens,” Doyle said. “The fact that this is one the CIP list means that it is not going away. These things have to be dealt with.”

The approved project will include new sidewalks for the corridor, separated and buffered bike lanes and landscaping and parking. 

The estimated cost of the project totals $910,000, according to the city’s fact sheet on the corridor, and the funding will come from the city’s general fund along with other grant funding. 

Construction for the project could begin as soon as this summer for the western portion of the corridor should the city council follow the approval of the planning commission. 

The western phase of the project, from Gardena Road to Bonita Drive/Windsor Road includes the road in front of San Dieguito Academy. The intersections before and after the school will become protected following the improvements. 

Construction on the eastern phase of the project, from Bonita Drive/Windsor Road to El Camino Real would not begin until after the first phase is complete. 

Despite the loss of the roundabout, residents still acknowledge the much-needed improvements to the busy thoroughfare, especially in front of the city’s biggest high school. 

“I’m an educator and advocate for safe routes to school and it’s a huge corridor as far as that goes,” resident Christine Schindler said. “It’s going to make it a lot safer for biking and walking and it will hopefully encourage more and more reduction of car congestion as more students and parents feel comfortable about using the corridor in that way.” 

The Planning Commission unanimously approved the project, with Chairman Bruce Ehlers absent from the meeting, and must now receive the City Council’s approval before moving forward.