By Karen Billing
San Diego County is expected to release its final environmental impact report on the proposed roundabouts for Paseo Delicias/Del Dios Highway within the next few weeks. The Rancho Santa Fe Association board, which received an update on the project Oct. 18, has been reviewing the project for over 10 years.
Roundabouts are looked at as a way to create free-flowing traffic at intersections, RSF Association Assistant Manager Ivan Holler said, requiring vehicles to slow but not stop. While they are more costly than traffic lights—the three proposed roundabouts are projected to cost $6 million—the roundabouts would improve the functioning of intersections on the highway and could reduce vehicle emissions as well as cut-through traffic.
The EIR will look at three proposed intersections for roundabouts: At Via de la Valle, El Montevideo and El Camino Del Norte.
When the EIR is released, RSF Association Vice President Anne Feighner requested that a community-wide meeting be held to discuss the project and its potential impacts.
“I still have questions and the community has questions,” Feighner said. “I think we have to be very careful when an issue hasn’t come up in several years…Almost nobody has it on their radar.”
Fellow board members agreed that a community meeting would be helpful to let people know about the process and gain additional input. The EIR would carry a 60-day public comment period, although if those 60 days fall within the upcoming holiday season, Holler said they may request an extension.
The Association’s long history with this project goes back to around 2002.
That year the Association installed a traffic counter on Del Dios Highway as it was concerned about increasing commuter traffic. At that time, traffic totaled 20,000 average daily trips on a two-lane road designated for more around 12,000 trips.
The county’s study of roundabouts was prompted by an Escondido citizen who requested the county install traffic signals. During the process, it was discovered that roundabouts were a potential alternative traffic solution.
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 lighting.
The final draft will include all of the comments received during public input and responses from the county on each of those comments and issues.
While traffic counts on Del Dios are down to about 16,000 daily trips, it is still very difficult for people who live off of connecting streets to get out onto the highway, Holler said.
Of the three proposed roundabouts, Holler said the Via de la Valle intersection is the most complicated.
It would result in a realignment of Las Colinas to move it farther south to intersect at a more 90-degree angle with Via de la Valle. Additionally, a cul-de-sac would be created on La Fremontia (currently a loop street) and the Village Church would lose a significant portion of its parking lot.
El Montevideo would be the only four-way roundabout while the other two would be three-way.
The roundabouts will be 102-110 feet in diameter with a 16-foot lane and a 12- to 15- foot-wide mountable apron. The apron is necessary to allow trucks with long trailers to circle through, mounting the curb if necessary. Each roundabout will also have a 48- to 54-foot landscaped center.
At the roundabouts, there will be a push button-activated crossing lighting that is accessible at two heights for both a pedestrian and a mounted equestrian.
At the push of the button, lighting about 400 to 500 feet away will turn on to warn oncoming drivers of horses or pedestrians crossing. There will also be in-pavement lighting on the crosswalks, similar to those seen on Del Mar’s Camino Del Mar. The in-pavement lighting is shielded so it only shines out to vehicles.
Director Rochelle Putnam said the Association’s trails and recreation committee worked with the county on the crossings and the lighting plan, making sure the lights would not frighten horses.
“They were really responsive,” Putnam said of county staff. “The committee is really excited about (the roundabout crossings) because it improves equestrian safety…It’s such a significant improvement at El Camino Del Norte because you really have to be an expert rider to cross there. This really opens up the trails.”
Holler said while they still need to review the final EIR, they know in advance of possible significant issues with the roundabouts that will need to be addressed.
He said possible issues include additional right-of-way acquisitions that the county would acquire through eminent domain, impacts to adjacent properties, traffic disruptions during construction and the La Fremontia changes.
RSF Association Director Larry Spitcaufsky requested that the Association staff find out as much as they can about the impacts to properties immediately adjacent to the intersections.