Since the beginning of May, at least five “stuck truck” incidences at Hillside Drive off Torrey Pines Road have been reported to La Jolla Light. And with the problem seeming to escalate, more City efforts are underway to mediate the problem.
Large trucks become stuck at the curb incline when they attempt to turn onto the steep Hillside Drive and other adjoining streets, blocking at least one lane of eastbound traffic on Torrey Pines Road and keeping residents from accessing neighborhood streets.
As a possible deterrent, the City is considering “re-signing” the area to visually discourage trucks from using Hillside Drive unless necessary.
At the June 6 La Jolla Community Planning Association (LJCPA) meeting, City Council member Barbara Bry’s rep Mauricio Medina said the area could get new signs, but that the City was “limited” as to what could be written on them.
Current signs indicate “Tractors-Semis over 25 feet, Kingpin to rear axle not advised” on Torrey Pines Road before the left-turn lane leading to Hillside Drive. Another sign has been posted on Torrey Pines Road heading toward the troublesome left turn, between Little Street and Viking Way.
However, resident Diane Kane explained that according to the California Vehicle Code, if a sign is yellow, it is considered an “advisory” and those that violate the advisory would not necessarily be ticketed.
Further, to be cited for a moving violation, police officers would have to witness the turn and the truck getting stuck.
During previous LJCPA meetings, trustees questioned why the police would need to witness the turn to ticket the driver, wondering how else could the truck have gotten stuck without making the ill-advised turn? Kane and other concerned residents are working with police to amend this regulation so trucks could be cited if they are observed in a stuck position.
During one stuck truck incident, Kane reported: “The truck was there for three hours and caused a massive back-up on Torrey Pines Road. When they eventually got the truck unstuck, they must have closed all lanes of traffic on Torrey Pines Road to tow the truck out.”
Why the perceived increase in the number of stuck trucks?
Earlier this year, the City’s Public Works Department repaired what is a referred to as “the dip” at the base of Hillside Drive to fix the cross gutter and improve drainage. Some think this made the problem worse.
City spokesperson Alec Phillipp explained as part of the work, “The road elevation was slightly lowered so as to make the intersection more even with the cross gutter at Hillside Drive” adding, “The improvements at this intersection were done with traditional passenger vehicles in mind.”
Further, some residents question whether Google Maps and Waze (a crowd-sourced GPS app that provides directions based on real-time traffic as reported by users) are a factor. Both programs recommend Hillside Drive, and streets such as Via Capri, as a bypass to Torrey Pines Road when traffic is thick, both to motorists and, apparently, truck drivers.
Bry previously told the Light: “My staff has reached out to the Transportation & Storm Water Department to inquire about sharing the street restrictions on navigation platforms like Google Maps to alert over-sized truck operators to use an alternate route.”
Since then, Phillipp said, “A notification has been placed on the (Waze) map stating that Hillside is not suitable for large trucks and that trucks should use an alternate route. We continue to direct commercial trucks to abide by the signage in the area stating that trucks shall not be using this intersection.”
An update on Hillside Drive is expected at the LJCPA meeting, 6 p.m. Thursday, July 18 at the Rec Center, 615 Prospect St. lajollacpa.org