By Karen Brainard
Two of the three phases of the proposed South Bypass remain on Ramona’s recommended road priority lists.
The Dye Road Extension, also known as Phase 2 of the South Bypass, was included in a Top 14 list of capital improvement project priorities by a majority of the Ramona Community Planning Group at its April 3 meeting.
Phase 1 of the South Bypass, extending Dye Street from state Route 67 and Mussey Grade Road to Dye Road, didn’t make the Top 14 but was added to a list of road projects that the planning group is recommending the county pursue with Caltrans.
Many of the residents attending the planners’ meeting in the library Community Room booed the decisions as they walked out after the vote.
The planning group’s Transportation and Trails Subcommittee dropped the two projects from the RCPG’s 2009 Top 10 list when it met March 24, and presented its draft lists to the planners for consideration on Thursday.
The meeting room was packed with many residents voicing opposition to the South Bypass, saying it would hurt Main Street businesses, cut into people’s properties, destroy rural areas, and create unsafe roadways because drivers could increase their speed.
RCPG Chair Jim Piva told the crowd that the South Bypass Phase 3, from Warnock Drive to Keyes Road to state Route 78, has not been supported by the planning group.
“There is no Phase 3 even on the books at the county. So if your concern is in that Phase 3 area, come back in about 50 years ... because that’s when the county or everyone else will probably be talking about it,” he said.
Joe Minervini, who lives on Cecilia Jo Road, which would be affected by Phase 1, said that, if Phase 3 will not be addressed until 50 years from now, why not get rid of it because property owners have to disclose the proposed route when selling.
Esline Witte said she moved from Santa Ysabel to Cecilia Jo Road to avoid the bottleneck at SR-67 and Highland Valley Road.
“I bought in Ramona because of the rural community. I was not told of the South Bypass when I bought it,” she said.
John Hancock, another Cecilia Jo Road resident, said, “It seems to me Phase 1 and 2 are just shortcuts to the Estates.”
Resident Joe Cahak said he was a member of the master road plan committee that recommended the South Bypass years ago for several reasons.
“One was the amount of traffic headed to the Barona Reservation as well as to the Estates, about a third of the traffic through our community,” he said. “And the amount of traffic coming out of south Ramona, and certainly through our Main Street.”
Cahak and planning group members noted that a proposed North Bypass had been abandoned years ago.
“Throw away the South Bypass and we lock ourselves into the existing traffic problem, growing and increasing year by year for the rest of our lives,” Cahak said.
Several people acknowledged that Main Street traffic will continue to increase as the residential developments of Cummings Ranch,off Highland Valley Road, and Montecito Ranch, off Montecito Road, are built.
“I think we need to look at the community as a whole,” said Carol Fowler, who serves as vice chair of the Ramona Village Design Group.
Besides cutting back on traffic, Fowler said the bypass could help Ramona businesses.
Fowler said it is not safe for pedestrians to cross Main Street in Old Town.
“Who wants to go look at murals when you have to risk your life crossing Main Street?” she asked.
She also noted that there are a lot of vacant stores.
“A congested Main Street does not benefit business,” said Planner Torry Brean, who added that the bypass should be referred to as an alternate route. “In the long run it will make Ramona a more attractive destination.”
Planner Jim Cooper, however, said he has seen restaurants full of visitors who are traveling through town on weekends.
“We have a town that I think is enjoyed by many, many visitors,” he said.
Safety has been cited as a reason for the Dye Road Extension, or Phase 2, which has 90-degree turns where Dye Road intersects with Ramona Street and again with Warnock Drive. Improvements would round out those turns.
Resident Ken Brennecke brought traffic collision statistics that showed that in the past five years five accidents have occurred at Ramona Street and Warnock Drive with no injuries or deaths, and nine at Ramona Street and Dye Road with just one minor injury.
“So I don’t really think safety is a consideration for the Dye Road Extension at all,” he said.
However, even if Dye Road were dropped from the list, it is still in the county’s Mobility Element as part of the 2010 General Plan Update, according to Mike Aguilar, project manager with the county’s Department of Public Works.
Aguilar said the county is just asking for a Top 10 list and would work toward fulfilling it. However, he added, if the county has an opportunity to fund or proceed with certain roads on the Mobility Element, those projects will be considered.
Planners Scotty Ensign and Carl Hickman supported Phase 1 of the bypass, saying it will give Mussey Grade Road drivers an option to get to Dye Road. Once the SR-67 and Highland Valley/Dye Road intersection is improved, they said, traffic will flow faster during rush hours and it will be more difficult to turn off Mussey Grade onto SR-67.
A few people spoke against the Ramona Street Extension, but it remains on the list.
The planning group voted to submit the recommended lists (see sidebar) to the county for consideration by an 8-3 vote with Cooper, Richard Tomlinson and Kevin Wallace opposing. Donna Myers and Ensign recused themselves because they live on streets that were listed, and Matt Deskovick and Paul Stykel were absent.
Ramona Community Planning Group Capital Improvement Road Priority List
(not numbered by priority)
- San Vicente Road, from Warnock Drive to Wildcat Canyon Road.
- Ramona Street, from Boundary Avenue to Warnock Drive.
- Traffic signal for 10th and H streets.
- Mussey Grade slope and drainage improvements
- Bridge over Santa Maria Creek on 13th Street.
- Paving 13th Street from state Route 67 to Walnut Street.
- Dye Road Extension (Phase 2 of South Bypass).
- San Vicente Road from Wildcat Canyon Road to San Diego Country Estates limit — road improvement.
- Sidewalk and pathway on east side of Ramona Street, from Boundary Avenue to Hanson Lane.
- Sidewalk and pathway on south side of Hanson Lane, from Ramona Street to San Vicente Road.
- Road improvement for alleyway from Fifth to 11th streets.
- Create road from Boundary Avenue to Etcheverry street to align with Equestrian Trail (for secondary access to Hanson Elementary School on Boundary, which dead-ends.
- Improve Etcheverry Street from Hunter Street to SR-67.
- Improve Kelly Avenue from Pala to Etcheverry streets.
Projects important to the community that shall require county coordination with Caltrans
- SR-67 and Highland Valley/Dye Road intersection.
- SR-67 and 14th Street.
- SR-67 and Montecito Road.
- Phase 1 of South Bypass — new road from SR-67 and Mussey Grade Road to Dye Road.