By Karen Brainard
Ramona Community Planning Group members are reconsidering support of center median barriers for State Route 67, as proposed by Caltrans, after receiving new information at a meeting with public safety officials.
At a public meeting in August, Caltrans unveiled its State Route 67 Median Barrier Feasibility Project that considers five options for the center of the highway from Willow Road in Lakeside to Shady Oaks Drive in Ramona: a concrete barrier, a metal barrier, a high tension cable barrier, a median buffer, and “no build.”
At its Sept. 5 meeting, several RCPG members voiced support for concrete median barriers to prevent head-on collisions.
That changed after planner Dennis Sprong told the group at its Oct. 3 meeting that he was in favor of a median barrier until he talked to emergency responders. Sprong attended a meeting Sept. 24 that was attended by members from the sheriff’s department, California Highway Patrol, County Office of Emergency Services and Department of Animal Services, Ramona Fire Department/Cal Fire and Caltrans. Areas of concern, Sprong pointed out, were the possibilities of accidents increasing with concrete barriers, longer emergency call response times, and more difficulty enforcing speed.
Lt. James Bovet of the sheriff’s Ramona station said that when members of the public safety groups looked at Caltrans’ proposal, all responded, “The road just needs to be widened.”
San Diego Association of Governments plans to widen the highway to four lanes from Mapleview Road in Lakeside to Highland Valley/Dye Road in Ramona by 2030 with construction possibly starting in 2021.
Some planners questioned why Caltrans was even proposing the barriers and whether the study is just to appease those calling for more safety measures along the highway, the site of many serious accidents and fatalities.
The planning group decided to table the discussion until it receives more information. t
A Caltrans spokesperson said Caltrans has been receiving public comments about the median barrier proposal but cannot reveal how many until an environmental impact report is completed, expected in spring 2014, when a public presentation will be given.
According to Richard Estrada, Caltrans project manager, the agency is analyzing the alternatives and reviewing public comments which he said are split between those for and against median barriers.
To view the median options and submit online comments, visit www.dot.ca.gov/dist11/Env_docs/67FeasabilityStudy/index.html.