City engineers detail plans to improve La Jolla thoroughfareBy Dave Schwab
Click on the link below to see the Powerpoint show presented at the meeting:
If all goes the way the city staff wants, La Jolla’s gateway — from La Jolla Shores Drive to Little Street — will be the first part of the Torrey Pines Corridor that could get a new look.
A conceptual plan long on vision and short on details for the long-awaited road improvement project was unveiled by city engineers and consultants at a forum on Jan. 19 hosted by First District City Councilwoman Sherri Lightner Jan. 19. But the presentation didn’t come without questions about whether and how the plans would improve safety for pedestrians.
Speakers described four segments of a project that is estimated to cost $26.5 million and listened to questions and suggestions from residents durin the nearly two-hour session. Among the goals are widening sidewalks, calming traffic, improving safety for pedestrians and bicyclists, and stabilizing slopes, they said.
Broad strokes on preliminary designs for the improvements, aided by $500,000 in design funding from a federal stimulus grant, were painted by engineers in a Powerpoint presentation that included images and cost breakdowns for the four sections that start at La Jolla Shores Drive and end at Prospect Place.
Specific design alternatives and timing for the project are being deferred until the La Jolla Traffic and Transportation Board can hear from the community. T&T Chairman Todd Lesser said the board will hold its first dicussions at their Feb. 24 meeting when people will have a chance to make suggestions.
Anticipating that a lot will be said, he added that the board will continue to listen until everyone has had their say, meeting again in March if necessary. Once the transportation board meets, they will pass their recommendations to trustees of the La Jolla Community Planning Association, the community’s advisory group on land-use, who will weigh in before it goes to the city council.
The Torrey Pines Corridor Study, previously approved by the City Council, recommends 20 improvements including:
• street cross sections and new guardrails, bollards and sidewalks,
• a of a 10-foot wide, two-way left-lane median in the center of Torrey Pines west of Viking Way,
• a continuous marked bike lane,
• new V calm (blinking light) speed indicators and transverse striping pavement markers installed in both directions to discourage speeding,
• new lighting and landscaped areas, including parkway trees and fencing
• bluff stabilization,
• creation of a view corridor by changing fencing along the street, and
• addition of signage and stormwater drainage.
City engineer Julio Fuentes said the city decided it would be best to break the long stretch of Torrey Pines Corridor between the Village and La Jolla Shores Drive down into four cost-equalizing segments: Prospect Place to Coast Walk, $7.4 million; Coast Walk to Hillside Drive, $6.5 million; Hillside Drive to Little Street, $6.8 million; and Little Street to La Jolla Shores Drive, $5.8 million.”
“Segment 4 (Little Street to La Jolla Shores Drive), the entrance to the Village and the longest segment, has the least cost because it has very few (retaining) walls, so we thought constructing that segment would give us the most bang for the buck,” said Fuentes, adding a project to strengthen a wall in that segment is already under way. He also said there was less need to acquire easements that might slow progress.
“Five years ago it was decided this was the most critical section in the road,” agreed city engineer Jamal Batta. “The city has already allocated money to the design and building of a retaining wall.”
During the question session, Andy Hamilton, president of Walk San Diego, a nonprofit advocating pedestrian safety and accessibility, said the city thus far hasn’t adequately addressed pedestrian safety in its preliminary planning.
“You’re really not looking at the complete picture, widening sidewalks so people can pass two other people side by side, and whether you accomplish bike lanes and other accessibility goals,” he said.
LJCPA president Joe LaCava said city staff’s evaluation thus far hasn’t been far reaching enough.
“You’re not offering any traffic calming — you’re offering sidewalks,” he said. “Without some kind of physical barrier between 45 mph traffic and pedestrians, nobody is going to feel safe out there.”
Sherry Nooravi, a Torrey Pines Corridor resident who’s lead a grass-roots drive to have the thoroughfare updated, said she spoke for a lot of people in saying the public wants the city to provide them with options for traffic calming and pedestrian safety and accessibility.
“What’s the cheapest and best way to provide pedestrian access?” Nooravi asked.
“Nothing’s cheap,” answered Fuentes. “The topography is difficult, the narrowness of the road is difficult.”
City engineers said construction of the first phase obetween Little Street and La Jolla Shores Drive, following environmental studies, could be ready for construction as soon as 2012. They added subsequent phases could be planned and ready for construction just as soon as the previous segment is completed.
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