By Karen Brainard
A proposed traffic signal at Mussey Grade Road and state Route 67 drew a mixture of comments from residents and did not receive enough support from members of the Ramona Community Planning Group (RCPG) at their May 5 meeting.
The traffic signal was proposed as part of an overall plan to improve traffic flow half a mile east at the Route 67 and Highland Valley/Dye road intersection. The proposed design also includes additional through lanes and turn lanes at that intersection and at Mussey Grade. The RCPG wants to have an approved plan to present to the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) and to the county.
Planning group member and licensed traffic engineer Carl Hickman presented the new design at a community workshop hosted by the RCPG on April 13. Using computer traffic modeling to show how traffic flow improved with the changes, Hickman was asked to create the model with additional lanes but without a traffic signal at Mussey Grade. He presented it at the May 5 meeting and said that modeling indicated a slight improvement but still showed a backup down Route 67.
Mark Hutton, who lives on Kimball Valley Road off Mussey Grade Road, disagreed with Hickman’s opinion that traffic backs up on Route 67 because people stop to let drivers turn in and out of Mussey Grade Road. Hutton said that only happens when traffic is traveling at 2 mph.
“This whole thing about Mussey Grade being the culprit, I think is wrong,” said Hutton.
Rick Morgal, a resident of Mussey Grade, called the proposed plan a “Cadillac solution” and said the urbanization of Ramona will cause the community to become Poway.
Ramona resident Joe Minervini, who lives on Cecelia Jo Road off Dye Road, supported the plan, saying the Highland Valley/Dye intersection needs to be fixed and this latest plan is better than a previous design.
Craig Stire, who lives on Mahogany Ranch Road off Mussey Grade Road, said he doesn’t want more traffic lights, but respects the expertise of Hickman. Stire added that he was impressed with the time and commitment Hickman gave toward the project.
To accumulate traffic volume data, Hickman sat at the Mussey Grade intersection for two hours on April 12 and counted 259 vehicles turning in and out of Mussey Grade from 4 to 5 p.m. On May 2, Hickman said he observed 181 vehicles turning in and out between 6:30 to 7:30 a.m. The morning traffic, he said, is mainly turning left out of Mussey Grade to head west to work, while in the afternoon drivers on 67 must accommodate vehicles making three different turn movements.
Planning group member Matt Deskovick said he thinks the new plan is extremely excessive.
“The people who wait in traffic and don’t like it probably shouldn’t have moved to Ramona,” Deskovick said, adding that he doesn’t think the extra travel time is a big deal.
Deskovick said he wants to keep Ramona rural and without a lot of bright lights and traffic lanes. He suggested just adding turn lanes.
“Why do you want to make a freeway out of Ramona?” he asked.
Hickman and RCPG Chair Jim Piva said future housing development for that area, such as Montecito Ranch and Cumming Ranch, will increase the traffic volume and has to be considered. Deskovick argued that those developments are not built yet. As he and Piva disagreed, both trying to get their points across at the same time, Deskovick got up and walked out of the meeting.
Planners Kevin Wallace and Angus Tobiason were also not in favor of a traffic light at Mussey Grade.
Member Torry Brean said, “I’ve spent most of my life turning off Mussey Grade Road.” Brean said he thinks the highway needs to be widened there and a light would then be necessary for safety measures.
RCPG Secretary Kristi Mansolf said she would prefer to see proposed lane changes made at the Highland Valley/Dye intersection first and questioned whether improvements to that intersection and Mussey Grade would need to be done simultaneously.
Hickman responded that Caltrans would probably want it as one project. Mansolf also said she was concerned about the safety of access points if four lanes—two through lanes in each direction—extend 700 feet west of Mussey Grade.
A motion by Dennis Sprong to approve the traffic signal at Mussey Grade and the other proposed improvements, which passed unanimously at the May 3 Transportation and Trails Subcommittee, failed. Six members voted for the plan and four voted against—Wallace, Tobiason, Mansolf, and Bob Hailey. Hickman abstained. Four members were absent: Chris Anderson, Chad Anderson, Paul Stykel, and Deskovick.
Eight votes were needed for the measure to pass.
Hailey said he believes there still isn’t enough information on the project and it is too big to receive enough funding at this time.