By Karen Brainard
The debate continues as to whether concrete barriers down the center of State Route 67 would be a safety improvement with Ramona Community Planning Group members weighing in at their Sept. 5 meeting.
Caltrans unveiled its State Route 67 Median Barrier Feasability Project at a public meeting Aug. 23. Five options are proposed: a concrete barrier, a metal barrier, a high tension cable barrier, a median buffer, and “no build,” meaning no changes would occur. The project area is from Willow Road in Lakeside to Shady Oaks Drive in Ramona.
Display boards of the options are available online at www.dot.ca.gov/dist11/Env_docs/67FeasabilityStudy/index.html. Caltrans is accepting public comments until Sept. 23.
Planner Carl Hickman, a licensed traffic engineer who works for the county, said he is surprised Caltrans is “fired up” about putting in concrete barriers.
“I’m really concerned about creating a whole new set of problems,” Hickman said.
Because of driveways and side streets along the highway, Caltrans would have to open “gore points” along the barrier so residents in those areas could make a left turn, creating a new challenge, Hickman said.
“They are going to have to look over those medians to see cars,” he explained.
“I don’t think the barrier idea is good at all,” said planner Scotty Ensign, adding that it could just increase speed among drivers.
“Traffic studies have shown that when you divide a road, traffic speed tends to go up,” said Hickman.
But RCPG member Paul Stykel said he drives that route every day and what scares him is drivers looking at emails and crossing over the double yellow line.
A barrier would prevent the head-on collisions that have occurred and caused fatalities, members noted.
Remembering a Julian woman who was killed on 67 from a head-on collision with a drunk driver, planner Jim Cooper said he favors any barrier that could save a life.
Sgt. Kurt Torsak of the sheriff’s Ramona substation was at the RCPG meeting. When planners asked for his opinion, he offered this statement from the Sheriff’s Department: “We support a safer Highway 67 and addressing the design of the roadway of 67 should be part of an overall safety plan.”
RCPG Chair Jim Piva said six to seven years ago a meeting was held at Supervisor Dianne Jacob’s office about barriers down the center of 67. About 40 Ramonans attended and after the pros and cons were discussed, only one still wanted the barriers, he said.
According to Hickman, there are about 60 driveways off 67 between Archie Moore Road and Highland Valley Road.
Piva said a barrier in that stretch would cause more problems than it would solve, and made a motion requesting no barriers from Highland Valley Road west to Quail Rock Road, which is just past Shady Oaks Drive.
The motion passed with Stykel opposed and Donna Myers abstaining.
Route 67 is scheduled to be widened to four lanes. RCPG Secretary Kristi Mansolf said she contacted San Diego Association of Governments and it still plans to widen the highway from Mapleview Road in Lakeside to HIghland Valley/Dye Road in Ramona by 2030 with construction possibly starting in 2021.
The public can provide Caltrans with comments on the median barrier study by emailing Ct.public.Information.firstname.lastname@example.org or mailing to Caltrans District Office, 4050 Taylor St., MS-121, San Diego, CA 92110.