By Dave Schwab
City officials met Thursday with about 15 people who live on West Muirlands Drive to offer suggestions on how to slow traffic and improve safety along their street.
Neighbors walked gingerly around caution tape and eyed the hole in their street as they arrived at Gena Tapper’s home. Once inside they talked about cars speeding through their neighborhood and the need to counteract that before something tragic happens.
Some mentioned that the cave-in on the street, closed since June 2 when a corroded storm water pipe caused the street to collapse, has given them a break from speeding cars and large trucks.
Repairs on the street still weren’t finished Friday, said Bill Harris, city transportation and stormwater department spokesman.
“We’re going to have crews out there working this weekend,” he said Friday afternoon, noting workers encountered more underground utilities than anticipated which caused them to be “literally threading the storm drain through, under and around.”
“It took a lot of handwork as opposed to lowering (pipes) down with a backhoe,” Harris said, adding crews will “be pouring concrete on Monday, asphalt on Tuesday.”
He said West Muirlands should be reopened to through traffic Tuesday afternoon.
With a half-filled hole outside on Thursday, the residents talked of having to walk in the street — which has become a popular way to avoid traffic near La Jolla High and Muirlands Middle schools — and having mailboxes and fire hydrants knocked down and cars sideswiped by speeders. One woman told of a car careening into a front yard and hitting a large boulder so hard that it moved.
Moorad seemed to capture the essence of the concerns when she said, “I’m scared too … I’m about reducing speed.”
City traffic engineer Gary Pence, Mark McCullough of the San Diego Police Department and Erin Demorest of First District Councilwoman Sherri Lightner’s office heard their pleas and offered some options.
It was the residents’ second meeting in as many months. Sixteen of those who were at the first gathering in May, attended by McCullough and two other officers, have already asked Pence to move ahead with raising the speed limit to 30 mph, which would then allow police to use radar to ticket speeders.
Pence talked Thursday about another option, that like the speed change possibly could be completed in about three months — erecting two V-Calm signs that electronically register and display the speed of passing vehicles. They are used to encourage motorists to voluntarily slow down to observe posted speed limits.
But he said putting in V-Calm signs “may take a little longer because you have to wait for the start of the new fiscal year (July 1).” The devices cost $6,000 to $7,000 a piece and residents want one at each end of the street.
Several said, if necessary, they would help raise funds to reduce the city’s costs, and Pence said he was hopeful that some school district money might be available because of the proximity to the two campuses.
Neighbors inquired about a number of other more costly and complex alternatives, including crosswalks, sidewalks and a mini traffic circle-like “choker.” They also want a “no turn on red sign” at the Nautilus end of the street and would like to see a crosswalk and stop sign added at the Fay end.
“We should try the less restrictive, easiest things first and see what results we get,” suggested Pence, noting the choker such as one on Via Capri comes with an estimated $50,000 price tag, and possibly more if the project weren’t done with city crews and was put out to outside bid.
Pence added all of the alternatives would have to be approved by La Jolla’s Traffic and Transportation Board and Community Planning Association committees. The initial proposals could be considered by the traffic panel in July.