County continues road standards hearing

   San Diego County Planning Commission has rescheduled its hearing on county public road standards updates for Dec. 18.

   The last update of the county’s public road standards was approved in July 1999. The addition of 19 new road classifications has not been opposed, but community groups have expressed a desire for flexibility and fire protection professionals seek adequate emergency access.

   The existing circulation element road classifications are expressway, prime arterial, major road, collector, town collector, light collector, rural collector, rural light collector, rural mountain, and recreational parkway. The 17 additional categories would be major road with intermittent turn lanes, boulevard with raised median, boulevard with intermittent turn lanes, community collector with raised median, community collector with continuous left turn lane, community collector with intermittent turn lanes, community collector with passing lane, community collector with no median, light collector with raised median, light collector with continuous left turn lane, light collector with intermittent turn lanes, light collector with passing lane, light collector with no median, light collector with reduced shoulder, minor collector with raised median, minor collector with intermittent turn lanes, and minor collector with no median.

   The existing non-circulation element road classifications are residential collector, residential, residential cul-de-sac, residential loop, industrial/commercial collector, industrial/commercial, industrial/commercial cul-de-sac, frontage, alley, and hillside residential. Proposed revisions would add the rural collector and rural residential classifications and would also revise pathway standards to provide consistency with the county’s Community Trails Master Plan and update provisions to address current engineering practices. The pathway updates incorporate existing Community Trails Master Plan design and construction guidelines, eliminate the requirement that the pathway be contiguous with the curb, and provide clarification that additional right-of-way may be necessary where pathways are required to exceed ten feet in width. The revisions to address current engineering standards would update reference documents, eliminate the requirement that sidewalks be contiguous to the curb, include additional guardrail evaluation and installation guidelines consistent with the California Department of Transportation traffic manual, refer to industry standards and guidelines regarding the evaluation and installation of roundabouts and signalized intersections, refer to engineering guidelines regarding intersection sight distance criteria, and reduce intersection spacing criteria for private driveways and private roads which intersect with a public road and serve no more than 20 dwelling units.

   Currently driveways or private roads must be separated by at least 300 feet if entering a circulation element road and by 200 feet if entering a non-circulation element road. The proposed revision would reduce the separation distance for driveways serving fewer than 20 dwelling units and entering a non-circulation element road to 100 feet.

   The road standards update proposal was first heard by the planning commission on April 24. Community group representatives supported the additional classifications but expressed concerns that the road standards did not take into account rural community character and desired additional flexibility. San Diego County Bicycle Coalition executive director Kathy Keehan noted that the new or widened roads needed to accommodate bicycle traffic.

   The commission formed a subcommittee, which held two meetings this summer and resulted in the release of a draft document titled “Flexibility in County Road Design.”

   At the commission’s July 31 hearing, Rancho Santa Fe Fire Protection District Fire Marshal Cliff Hunter said that fire safety professionals were not involved in the subcommittee meetings and some proposed widths did not meet fire standards. An additional subcommittee workshop was held Sept. 25.

   The proposed revision states that all requests involving exemptions to adopted community right-of-way development guidelines will require input and a written recommendation from the local community planning or sponsor group while all requests for exemptions involving road widths, angle of departure, or vertical clearance will require a letter from the fire authority with jurisdiction. Although the director of DPLU can override those recommendations, any decision will involve a letter containing reasons for the director’s determination.  A director’s decision may be appealed to the planning commission.  

   A project applicant may request an exemption by completing a request form which includes alternatives considered and consequences of compliance, and a community advisory group may recommend that an applicant process an exemption request if standards for the project do not conform to an established community plan for the area.

   A rural residential collector would be designed to accommodate an average daily traffic volume of between 1,500 and 4,500 vehicles while a rural residential road would service an average volume of less than 1,500 vehicles. Both are intended to serve areas with lot sizes of at least two acres, and on-street parking would be prohibited.  The standards for both include a total right-of-way width of 48 feet, a pavement width of 28 feet between the curb faces, and a minimum pavement thickness of three inches of asphalt concrete pavement and six inches of Portland cement concrete pavement.

   All circulation element road classifications have a minimum lane width of twelve feet as do all non-circulation element residential road classifications other than hillside residential, which does not have a specific minimum width.  The proposed rural residential and rural collector classifications also require 12-foot lanes.

   
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