La Jolla traffic board recommends changing signs to keep trucks from being stuck on Hillside Drive

Despite a lot of signs at Hillside Drive and Torrey Pines Road, trucks are still getting stuck.
Despite a lot of signs at Hillside Drive and Torrey Pines Road, trucks are still getting stuck as they turn from one street to the other.

The La Jolla Traffic & Transportation Board is recommending that the city of San Diego replace signs at various intersections along Hillside Drive to try to discourage trucks over a certain length and weight and prevent them from becoming stuck.

The vote came following La Jolla Community Planning Association President Diane Kane’s presentation to the T&T Board at its Feb. 17 meeting, detailing “multiple issues on Hillside Drive.”

One stems from countless trucks becoming stuck as they turn from one street to another at the intersection of Torrey Pines Road and Hillside Drive after Torrey Pines Road was resurfaced some years ago, with the stormwater drainage capacity improved, Kane said.

Now, she said, trucks with “very long overhangs” — the length from the rear axle to the end of the truck — get stuck in the dip between Torrey Pines Road and Hillside Drive. “They would start going uphill and their bottoms would sit and then they would get hung up on the rise” of Hillside, Kane said.

A stuck truck on Hillside Drive blocks a lane of traffic on Torrey Pines Road in 2019.

In response, the city placed several signs warning truck drivers, but trucks were still getting stuck, Kane said.

She said one solution might be to reroute trucks from Torrey Pines Road onto Amalfi Street, which has “a much more gradual ascent.”

Someone erected a sign indicating Amalfi is a private road in order to discourage traffic, but Kane said the city confirmed Amalfi is a public street.

“It’s just unimproved,” she said. “We might put it into a capital improvement project and see if we can switch the entrance” to the neighborhood from Hillside Drive to Amalfi Street.

“There are also restrictions on truck weight and size” from the top of Hillside Drive heading down toward Torrey Pines Road, but trucks over 5 tons are coming down Hillside “because there’s no signage anywhere else” prohibiting it, Kane said.

She requested that the board recommend signs at the intersections of Hillside Drive and Soledad Avenue and Via Siena, as well as Via Siena at Via Capri.

LJCPA President Diane Kane wants added signage to try to prevent large trucks from entering Hillside Drive and getting stuck.
La Jolla Community Planning Association President Diane Kane wants added signage to try to prevent large trucks from entering Hillside Drive and getting stuck.

Kane said signs are needed at the latter intersection, where trucks turn to gain access to Hillside Drive from the east and south, “to remind them before they can’t turn around that this is a really bad idea.”

The signs that do exist are problematic, Kane said, placed throughout the neighborhood in varying combinations of pictures, text and colors.

One sign indicates using Hillside Drive is “not advised,” which Kane said leaves drivers to make their own judgments. “It’s still not successful,” she said.

Another issue, Kane said, is that most signs prohibit trucks over 5 tons, but the reason they’re getting stuck isn’t weight.

“The issue with a 5-ton truck is a 7-foot overhang,” she said. “You have to be 4 feet or less to be able to make” the turn at Torrey Pines Road and Hillside Drive, Kane said.

She also wants limits on truck width, as Hillside Drive is 20 feet across in most places. “If you’re over 9 feet [wide], you’re going to create a problem, particularly if there’s something coming in the other direction,” she said.

T&T member Ross Rudolph suggested replacing the signs that prohibit trucks over 5 tons with signs indicating “no trucks of length greater than 4 feet between rear axle and back of truck.”

“That’s the only thing that’s going to solve this,” he said.

But weight is still a concern, Kane said. “This paving is ancient and it’s breaking down. Sections of Hillside were repaved, but they are not going to last long with the weight of the trucks. You need to be looking at all measurements.”

“Whatever’s being delivered into the neighborhood needs to be on smaller trucks,” she said. “These roads were developed in the 1920s when none of these vehicles were around, and they were never intended to handle any of this stuff.”

Limiting trucks by length would ensure the trucks are smaller in weight and width, T&T member Patrick Ryan said.

Kane also suggested the signs have “icons rather than verbiage ... because nobody reads the verbiage,” along with warnings of road narrowing and changes in road grade.

A parking directional sign pilot project spearheaded by the La Jolla Coastal Access and Parking Board won unanimous approval of the local Traffic & Transportation Board during its Feb. 17 meeting.

Board Chairman Dave Abrams asked if the group should “address the broader issues of diverting traffic onto Amalfi or other roads instead of adding signage, which trucks ignore anyway.”

Kane said the board should “look at traffic in the whole neighborhood” and perhaps recommend one-way streets throughout or look at parking and pedestrian access.

“The whole neighborhood is suffering from these vehicles, but Hillside is particularly bad because it’s the emergency access road and it’s steep. It’s the tip of the iceberg,” Kane said.

Changing the signs “is the stopgap measure until we can do something more systematic,” she said, adding that the signs will lead to consequences such as ticketing and fines if they are ignored. “If the signs are not there, then they are allowed to be on that street and there are no penalties.”

A motion to recognize “a longstanding issue of safety concerns and general traffic disruption that requires attention” was approved unanimously, with the recommendation that Kane and Abrams meet with a city traffic engineer to request the suggested sign changes.

The board will forward the action to the Community Planning Association to garner support. ◆