OCEANSIDE— The city’s plans to extend Melrose Drive from Spur to North Santa Fe Avenue have been dropped from its traffic circulation element.
Earlier this month, the Oceanside City Council voted to remove the Melrose Drive extension as recommended by staff.
Melrose Drive includes two separate segments in town: the southern segment which extends from Vista to North Santa Fe Road, and the northern segment extending from Spur Avenue to the San Luis Rey River. Between those two segments is a gap filled by open space, farming and residential properties.
Plans for a Melrose extension have been on the books since the late 1980s, with the construction planning process beginning in the early 1990s. But the project was put on hold due to other funding priorities taking precedent.
The project was restarted almost 20 years later in 2009 when the council directed staff to complete an environmental impact report for the project. The following year, the council approved the report and middle alignment “Alternate A” as the preferred design.
Not everyone was a fan of the project. Preserve Calavera, a non-profit that aims to protect open spaces in the region, filed a lawsuit challenging the report. Everything was settled in 2011 when the city agreed to reduce the width of Melrose Drive extension from a six-lane roadway to a four-lane roadway.
Then in 2012, the city approved an agreement with Nolte Associates to perform the final engineering and environmental services for the extension project, which took one year to finish.
Construction would have required the city to make partial acquisitions from five different parcels, one of which is parkland owned by the county. Though the county was supportive, the acquisition would have also required approval from the Federal Department of Interior.
“That process is rather arduous, especially for those with local opposition,” said Hamid Bahadori, traffic engineer for the city.
It was determined that the engineering cost alone would be roughly $45 million, which didn’t even include the acquisition costs. No one was willing to pursue that costly project at the time, and so the project was shelved.
In early 2019, the Oceanside council directed staff to prepare an amendment to its Circulation Element of the General Plan to remove the project from the books.
According to staff, removal of the project actually creates a reduced delay in traffic for intersections along Melrose Drive. If the project had stayed, two additional intersections would have been slowed: one at North Santa Fe Avenue and Bobier Drive in Vista and the other at Melrose Drive and North Santa Fe Avenue in Oceanside.
Mayor Esther Sanchez, who was a council member at the time when the project was brought back in 2009 and then shelved in 2012, said she likes Melrose Drive the way it is now.
“I like the way it moves along,” she said. “It reminds me of a country road.”
Councilmember Chris Rodriguez noted that many people in his district don’t like the project, and Deputy Mayor Ryan Keim added that although he doesn’t usually vote to remove road plans, this particular instance called for it.
“I think this is a unique circumstance that would benefit the city,” Keim said.
The only one to disapprove of removing the project was Councilmember Peter Weiss.
“When we remove segments off the overall circulation network, whether it’s Melrose, whether it’s Pala Road extension… there’s going to be an increase in traffic at some point in time,” Weiss said. “To me, when you support removing those roadway segments and connectors, you forfeit the right to complain about traffic.”