No county funding for Del Dios roundabouts yet

Every day on Paseo Delicias/Del Dios Highway in Rancho Santa Fe, hundreds of cars and commuters are stacked and stranded, backed up by stop signs. Rancho Santa Fe resident Ronald Rich said that the traffic on Del Dios is “intolerable” and is getting worse every week.

“Del Dios is now a major county thoroughfare as more cars hit the roads yet nothing has been done to relieve the delays,” Rich said. “Nothing but years of ‘studies’ and pontification.”

Rich and the other commuters who face the daily traffic jams are wondering how much longer they will have to wait for the three proposed Del Dios roundabouts to provide some relief, to keep the traffic flowing during those peak hours.

It may be a while.

“The project has been designed, but there is no funding for purchasing required right-of-way or construction,” said Jessica Northrup, the county’s communication officer for the land use and environment group. “Once funds are identified, such as state or federal grants, the project can move forward.”

The construction cost is estimated at about $7 million, which does not include eminent domain fees.

In May 2015, the Rancho Santa Fe Association board approved traffic signals over roundabouts for the intersections of Via de la Valle, El Montevideo and El Camino del Norte, however, public opposition to the board’s decision led to a community-wide survey in the fall in which 73 percent voted in favor of roundabouts. The board then forwarded its request to the county for roundabouts instead in November 2015.

Last year the county requested $60,000 from the RSF Association to update the project’s environmental impact report (EIR), which had “gone stale.” The cost of the refresh was $75,000 of which the county had $15,000 remaining for the project.

Northrup said the final EIR was finally certified by the County of San Diego Board of Supervisors on Oct. 19, 2016.

Rancho Santa Fe Association Manager Bob Hall said he has had multiple conversations with the county about getting the roundabouts in the Department of Public Works’ capital improvement program (CIP).

“We do talk about it regularly,” Hall said. “At this point in time it is one of our priorities and we continue to talk to the county about moving it up the priority list but in the current CIP, it is not funded.”

The Association’s long history with this project goes back to about 15 years. A Covenant-wide meeting in 2003 resulted in the Association submitting a request for roundabouts to the county, and the next year the Association contributed $125,000 toward a project study.

The first roundabout design meeting was held in 2005, followed by more in 2006. The first draft of the EIR circulated in 2008, and in 2010 it was revised to include Rancho Santa Fe’s suggestions about lighting.

In 2013, the RSF Association board took a “passive position” of not opposing the certification of the EIR with the recommendations that the county reduce the diameter of the roundabouts and do a complete study of traffic signals at those intersections. The Association board also voted to form an ad hoc committee to work with the county on traffic signal design as the alternative, because it had never been studied or designed in great detail.

In 2015, the Association board voted to support traffic signals after feedback at a town hall meeting was overwhelmingly in favor of signals.

Immediately afterward, though, a group of residents challenged the decision with a petition of almost 1,000 signatures. As a result, the board approved conducting the community-wide survey.

Moving forward, the Association can have some input on the design of the roundabouts, but the county must adhere to certain guidelines. Rancho Santa Fe’s concerns have surrounded around making sure that neighboring property owners’ land is respected with the construction of the roundabouts. To build the roundabouts, a few Covenant and non-Covenant residents will lose acreage and each landowner will be paid fair market value for the land.

For now, Rich would like to see the Association put more pressure and “heat” on the county, proposing phone calls, videos of the backed-up traffic, a letter campaign or flyers at the stop signs.

“We suggest that residents work with their community planning groups to advocate for a specific project,” Northrup said, noting the planning group for the Rancho Santa Fe region is the San Dieguito Community Planning Group. The group meets on the second Thursday of every month at the Rancho Santa Fe Fire Station. Chair Doug Dill can be reached at thedills@att.net.

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