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Traffic group addresses Torrey Pines Road stuck trucks

A ‘stuck truck’ on Torrey Pines Road
A ‘stuck truck’ on Torrey Pines Road
(Courtesy)

For some time, residents who use Torrey Pines Road have observed what they call “stuck trucks” causing traffic jams on La Jolla’s main thoroughfare. Chiefly, when large trucks attempt to turn left onto Hillside Drive from Torrey Pines Road — only to be met with a sign saying they cannot proceed — they must back into traffic or find some other means to move.

Now, La Jolla’s Traffic & Transportation Board (T&T) is discussing the issue and evaluating the best way to notify truck drivers of what is allowed/prohibited. Leading up to the June 15 meeting, where the topic was set for discussion, Catharine Douglass said she and other residents have been reporting the problem on nextdoor.com and contacting Council President Sherri Lightner’s office. Although minor progress has been made, Douglass said there is still more to do.

“Trucks are consistently getting stuck at the base of Hillside Drive as they try to turn off Torrey Pines Road,” she said. “The effects of the ‘stuck trucks,’ is hours of eastbound traffic on Torrey Pines Road. The last incident was two weeks ago, which started at 7:30 a.m. and was not resolved until about 1:30 p.m. Also, ‘lookie loos’ traveling westbound are slowing traffic flow in the other direction … and the grooves created by these trucks at the base of Hillside are a hazard. If a cyclist gets a tire caught in that, it’s going to throw them under a car.”

Part of the problem, she asserts, was insufficient signage. “The original sign issue was there was no sign westbound on Torrey Pines Road going toward the Village. There was a small sign going eastbound from the Village toward the freeways. But most of the trucks are going westbound, and the only sign that existed was on Hillside, which drivers couldn’t see until they executed the turn and had no recourse,” she said.

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The sign on Hillside is a faded, white regulatory sign that has an image of a truck with a ‘no’ symbol (red circle with a slash) over it, announcing that no trucks over five tons are allowed. Above it, an advisory sign reads: “Tractors-Semis over 25 feet, Kingpin to rear axle not advised.”

In the days before the T&T meeting, a new yellow advisory sign was placed on a Torrey Pines Road median facing westbound traffic, and the eastbound facing sign was replaced to be more visible. However, some say the “loose” and “vague” language does not fully address the problem.

La Jolla Traffic & Transportation member Patrick Ryan with a photo of the current Hillside Drive signage
La Jolla Traffic & Transportation member Patrick Ryan with a photo of the current Hillside Drive signage
(Ashley Mackin)

The new signage reads, much like the Hillside Drive sign, “Tractors-Semis over 25 feet, Kingpin to rear axle not advised,” to which Douglass said, “I think there are shorter trucks than 25 feet that cannot make that turn.” Citing a provided photo, T&T member Patrick Ryan observed a recent “stuck truck” would neither be classified as a tractor nor a semi.

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Added member Eric Gantzel, “This is way too much information on a sign for people driving and trying to read at the same time … Two lines rather than five lines of information would be more effective.”

Hoping for words clearer and stricter than “not advised,” Douglass said, “The new signage is certainly a step in the right direction, but improvements are still needed.”

T&T member Ryan questioned whether a white sign with the symbol of a truck with the ‘no’ symbol over it might be easier to read while driving and easier to enforce. With white signs having different regulatory strength than yellow signs, he explained, “Yellow signs are advisories whereas white signs are law. A yellow diamond advisory might suggest taking a curved road at 25 miles per hour, but if the speed limit is 50, you can take that turn at 50. The yellow sign is just an advisory.”

Using the white sign posted on Hillside Drive as an example of what is currently permitted, Ryan said, “The not-over-five-tons sign is not an advisory, that’s like a speed limit sign. So there may be some (law) that limits truck size to five tons. It would be worth asking.”

T&T chair Dave Abrams committed to reaching out to the city for what is feasible, and the item was tabled to a future meeting.

In other T&T news:

Traffic calming in the Farms: About 10 residents of La Jolla Farms Road attended the meeting to request traffic calming measures be implemented on their street. Introducing the request, resident Elsha Narachi noted the proximity to UC San Diego and frequency with which people walk the area to access Black’s Beach and the Ho Chi Min Trail. Without requesting any specific method, she said, “There is an extraordinary amount of traffic involving cars and pedestrians here … we’re concerned. The speed limit is 25 miles per hour, but the norm seems to be 35 or 45. We’re in need of traffic calming measures.”

With residents observing that drivers are often looking at their phones or looking for coastal accesses while driving — rather than keeping their eyes on the ever-changing road conditions — many said they no longer feel their streets are safe.

Resident Elizabeth Pritscher-Lewish said, “My kids are not allowed to ride their bikes on the street. My child has nearly been hit more times than I can count. Those who don’t regularly drive that way don’t realize the topography is one they need to be cautious on – there are straight-aways, but there are also blind turns and (hills and dips).”

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Some suggested raised dots to alert drivers to stay in their lane and slow down, and illuminated speed limit signs.

“I would like to start with the least intrusive, least expensive approach,” Narachi said.

Abrams explained, “There are numerous ways to implement traffic calming, some more effective than others depending on the (situation). We will bring this to the city’s attention and relay your concerns.”

The item will be heard again at a future meeting.

Girard Ave. gains a parking space: Hoping to convert a 20-minute loading zone space fronting the women’s clothing store, Draper and Damons, at 7857 Girard Ave. into a 90-minute parking space, store manager Sharon Reynolds spoke at the meeting. “There is 90-minute parking up and down the block, with the exception of this one commercial loading zone, which I believe was left over from when a bakery was at this location. Most of the commercial vehicles use a back alley for deliveries,” she said. “My customers want to park close, and they get parking tickets day in and day out. They come in the store, very angry, and address it with me constantly.”

With reported support from the city, a motion to endorse the change passed unanimously.

Street stenciling: With recent approval for speed humps on West Muirlands Drive by T&T board and La Jolla Community Planning Association, resident Sally Miller said during public comment she was worried traffic would increase on nearby Nautilus Street. She would like to see stenciling on the street in select intersections that reads “Keep Clear,” so those turning from feeder streets would have a fair opportunity to enter traffic. “There is one (at Muirlands Vista Way), but where my street feeds onto Nautilus, I have to be very aggressive. If we have that stenciling it would make things easier,” Miller said. A progress report will be given at a future meeting.

— La Jolla Traffic & Transportation next meets 4 p.m. Wednesday, July 20 at La Jolla Rec Center, 615 Prospect St. lajollacpa.org

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