The Coast News Group
Proposed improvements along Lomas Santa Fe Drive include a “scramble” crosswalk, which stops all vehicular traffic to allow people to cross in all directions, including diagonally, at the same time. Because of its location at the Cedros Avenue intersection, Mayor Mike Nichols expressed concerns that it could back up traffic at the Coast Highway 101 intersection to the west. Upgrades in the area will also likely eliminate a confusing left-turn lane onto the 101 that starts at the Cedros intersection. Courtesy rendering
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Upgrades coming to Lomas Santa Fe corridor

SOLANA BEACH — Long-planned improvements for Lomas Santa Fe Drive moved forward at the Sept. 27 meeting. Council members unanimously appropriated $65,000 for phase two of a feasibility study to pay for technical analysis of data collected earlier this year and 30 percent of preliminary engineering plans.

The project is a key element of the city’s comprehensive active transportation strategies.

With a goal to detect existing deficiencies along the roadway, a team of consultants as part of phase one solicited feedback from residents during a daylong community walk audit of the entire east-west corridor, from Coast Highway 101 to Highland Drive.

A survey was also conducted to garner additional public input.

Issues such as narrow sidewalks, missing curb ramps required by the Americans with Disabilities Act, wide lanes and medians that encourage speeding and deteriorating pavement were identified during an engineering team field walk.

Proposed safety and aesthetic upgrades include restriping the roadway, a multiuse path for pedestrians and bicyclists, an all-way crossing known as a scramble at the Cedros Avenue intersection and a median at Granados Avenue.

Also recommended was improved signalization of traffic lights, including a change that would give pedestrians a green light slightly before vehicles.

Additionally, city staff members are working with the California Department of Transportation to improve the crossings at the Interstate 5 on- and off-ramps.

In an email to the city, resident Douglas Alden, chairman of BikeWalkSolana, supported the project moving forward.

“This is the main thoroughfare through our community,” he wrote. “It is a major route to schools for many families who (choose) to walk or bike. Future improvements developed through this study will help address safety concerns raised by the community and improve access for all users.”

“I’m excited,” said Kristine Schindler, a BikeWalk member and the only resident who spoke during public comment. “I think there’s a lot of opportunity and possibility.”

She suggested making some improvements, such as restriping crosswalks and the roadway and adding buffered bike lanes, sooner rather than later.

Council members also support the plans but had some concerns.

Mayor Mike Nichols said additional parking spaces would be great and none should be eliminated.

“Even one or two is a big deal,” he said. “I know it’s counterproductive in terms of greening … but we also have problems to address.”

Trees should probably not be added to a median on westbound Lomas Santa Fe, between Nardo and Rios avenues, because they will block the ocean view, he said.

Nichols also had concerns about the scramble crossing, which stops all vehicular traffic to allow people to cross in all directions, including diagonally, at the same time. He said the longer stop time for cars could back up traffic at the Highway 101 intersection.

Additionally, he said the improvements must “relate to the character of Solana Beach” and not look like “a project just dropped in from another city.”

For example, he said, a proposed two-way pedestrian track looks like asphalt with a yellow stripe down the middle.

“That’s not going to fly,” he said. “It’s got to look good. We need to make it inviting.”

He suggested using colored concrete, decomposed granite similar to the look on the coastal rail trail and possibly a split-rail fence to separate pedestrians from traffic “to give it a more rural character.”

Councilwoman Jewel Edson agreed.

“We’re focused on traffic management and safety but I think that aesthetics definitely do have to come into play,” she said. “I think we could do something special and attractive versus something that is kind of vanilla.”

“This is an important thing for us,” the mayor added. “We’ve been talking about doing this for a really long time.”