By Karen Brainard
Concerns from Ramona Community Planning Group (RCPG) members about turn lanes and road width along San Vicente Road is leading county staff to take another look at its design to improve the artery that leads to San Diego Country Estates.
At the April 4 RCPG meeting, county staff from the Department of Public Works (DPW) presented an update on the San Vicente Road Improvement Project that is slated for construction to begin this fall. A 2.25-mile segment of the roadway from Warnock Drive to 1,000 feet east of Wildcat Canyon Road will be realigned to improve sight distance and make the road safer.
“There are approximately 16 curves,” Steve Ron, project manager with DPW told the planning group. “At the end of the project we’ll have six curves.”
The roadway has two 12-foot travel lanes and 24 feet of pavement and has been the scene of serious accidents in which many people, including teenagers and young adults, have died or been severely injured.
The new design plans call for two 13-foot vehicle travel lanes, a 5-foot bike lane and a 10-foot parkway on the north or east side of the road, and a 5-foot bike lane and 10-foot DG (decomposed granite) pathway on the south or west side for equestrians and pedestrians. According to Ron, a parkway differs from a pathway
in that it is a graded area where people can walk but is not as weatherproof.
An asphalt berm and landscape barrier will separate the bike lane from the pathway which will be safer than guard rails or fences, Ron said. He added that the county has been working with the equestrian community on the plans.
Terry Rayback, program manager of DPW’s Land Use Environmental Group and Capital Improvement Project Development, said TransNet funding (half cent sales tax) that will go toward the project requires separate bike and equestrian lanes. TransNet will fund about $28 million of the $40 million project, Ron told the Sentinel.
Three dedicated turn lanes have been designed on San Vicente Road for intersections with Warnock Drive, Deviney Lane, and Wildcat Canyon Road, said Rayback, prompting some planners to question the logic.
RCPG members Torry Brean, Eb Hogervorst, and Dennis Sprong said Gem Lane sees more traffic in and out than Deviney Lane which leads into the Barnett Ranch Preserve.
“There’s 10 times more traffic going out of Gem Lane than the park,” said Hogervorst.
Sprong asked how the county found a need for a turn lane at Deviney Lane and not Gem Lane.
A county staff member said the state Fish and Wildlife agency and the county Parks and Recreation Department felt a turn lane was needed at Barnett Ranch for safety reasons as drivers turn in and out with horse trailers. Sprong, however, responded that there are agricultural lots all along San Vicente Road where owners have horse trailers.
Planner Carl Hickman weighed in with his comments and concerns, calling the project a “brand new roadway.”
While Hickman liked a dedicated right turn lane onto Wildcat Canyon Road, he said San Vicente should have two sets of double yellow centerlines to help prevent head-on collisions. Hickman said there are many “near-misses” on San Vicente Road.
“There should be a way to accommodate a double- yellow,” he said. “In my opinion the speeds are going to go up.”
Rayback said they had tried to keep the road on the narrow side to accommodate those who wanted it to blend with the rural community character.
“I see a project that doesn’t meet your own road standards,” Hickman said.
Noting that he drives the route every day, Hickman asked for another two feet for additional double- yellow or rumble strips, questioning whether two 10-foot pathways were needed on each side.
“We’ll take one more look at it,” Rayback responded, adding that there have been a lot of trade-offs. “We’re trying to walk a fine line.”
To accommodate San Diego Country Estates traffic, Rayback said, “There will be no construction during two peak commuter hours.” He said construction will most likely take place from 9 a.m. to 3 or 4 p.m. During construction, Rayback said, they will try to maintain two lanes of traffic most of the time, but when flaggers must be out to control traffic, the delay time will not be more than 15 minutes.
Because San Vicente Road is the main route to San Diego Country Estates, Rayback said they will make sure that those bidding on the job will understand that such issues as emergency evacuation could arise. Turnout areas will be available during construction in case a car stalls or for an emergency vehicle to make a U-turn, he said.
DPW is working with a public relations firm to keep residents updated on the road construction by signing people up for email blasts, posting news on Facebook and Twitter, and offering a Hotline number, 1-877-291-6565.
The county estimates that 150 oak trees on 5.85 acres along San Vicente Road will be removed. The county is acquiring 14.5 acres of oak habitat to mitigate the loss, however Rayback said only some of that acreage will be in Ramona. He added that they are trying to buy more land for Barnett Ranch and possibly plant trees there.
“We’re very aware of the community’s interest in the loss of trees,” said Rayback.
County staff is still acquiring right of way parcels, said Rayback, and plans to get approval from the Board of Supervisors this summer to authorize staff to advertise and award a construction contract. The project is expected to take 18 months and be completed in spring 2015.
About $10 million of the $40 million total cost is relocation of utilities. Ramona Municipal Water District will have to pay close to $5 million to move a water main. In addition to TransNet, the project will be funding by county transportation impact fees.