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La Jolla traffic board discusses possible new traffic light and approves half-marathon street closures

The intersection of Torrey Pines Road and Hillside Drive
The La Jolla Traffic & Transportation Board discussed the possibility of a traffic light at the intersection of Torrey Pines Road and Hillside Drive.
(Bing Maps / La Jolla Light)

The La Jolla Traffic & Transportation Board this week discussed the possibility of a traffic light at the intersection of Torrey Pines Road and Hillside Drive and decided to take up the issue further at its next meeting in October.

The idea was brought forth during T&T’s Aug. 18 virtual meeting by La Jolla Community Planning Association President Diane Kane on behalf of her neighbor as an attempt to alleviate the danger posed when drivers try to make a left turn from westbound Torrey Pines Road onto Hillside.

Kane said traffic on eastbound Torrey Pines “is constant there. … I’ve almost gotten creamed a couple of times with that situation.”

Kane said her neighbor’s wife made the left turn and an eastbound car stopped for her, but another car “whipped around that [stopped] driver [and] plowed into her.”

Within the past few years, the city of San Diego installed a high-intensity activated crosswalk, or HAWK, pedestrian crossing on Torrey Pines Road just past Princess Street, one block west of Hillside Drive. “I doubt the city would sponsor a second traffic light so close to the HAWK light,” Kane said.

She wondered if the HAWK could be programmed so drivers turning left at Hillside would activate the lights, which require drivers to stop, providing those turning left a break in eastbound traffic.

Chris Day, who has lived on Hillside Drive for 17 years, said the HAWK beacon gives pedestrians a “false sense of security.”

“If you go press the button and wait there until it turns green to let you across, there’s a fairly good chance that a car that is so accustomed to accelerating down the hill on Torrey Pines will blow through the light because that’s what they’re used to, and you will be killed,” he said.

“I think the same thing would happen if there’s a [traffic] light at Hillside Drive.”

La Jolla resident Serge Issakov said both the HAWK and proposed traffic light are a “Band-Aid.”

“I think the real problem is that that whole stretch of Torrey Pines Road is a racetrack. … I think the long-term solution is a complete revamp of the road with roundabouts, from the fire station all the way to Girard,” Issakov said.

T&T Chairman Brian Earley said he inquired with city traffic engineer Gary Pence about the possibility of a traffic light. Earley said he hoped for a response by the next meeting, when more ideas would be discussed.

La Jolla’s Traffic & Transportation Board voted Aug. 18 to ask the city of San Diego to add “flexible delineators” — plastic reflective posts about 3 feet tall and affixed to the road — at certain points along Camino de la Costa in the Lower Hermosa neighborhood.

Other T&T news

Half-marathon route: The board unanimously approved a request for temporary street closures and no-parking zones for the La Jolla Half Marathon scheduled for Saturday, Dec. 11.

The La Jolla Traffic & Transportation Board approved road closures for the Dec. 11 La Jolla Half Marathon and 5K.
(Courtesy of Bart Calame)

The 40th annual event, organized by the Kiwanis Club of La Jolla, will start at the Del Mar Fairgrounds. About the final three miles of the race overlap with the run’s concurrent 5K and are in La Jolla, from North Torrey Pines Road at UC San Diego to La Jolla Shores Drive to Torrey Pines Road and finishing on Cave Street.

Bart Calame, a Kiwanis member and chairman of its half-marathon committee, said the plans are unchanged from previous years.

“We’ve already figured out the recipe; we haven’t changed anything in a long time,” Calame said.

The race is expected to take about four hours in the morning, he said, with race staff opening the roads as runners clear out. He said the last runner should be off the course by 11 a.m.

Suzanne Weissman, who lives on Spindrift Drive, which is part of the race course, said Kiwanis is “the best group; [the race organization] is so efficient, they clean up right away, there’s no noise and it’s just a pleasure to have them.”

The race was canceled in May 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It was then scheduled for April but was postponed again to December. “We thought about just postponing to next spring, but the runners want to run,” Calame said.

The race also provides the Kiwanis Club of La Jolla with “99 percent of our fundraising each year,” he said, with proceeds supporting local nonprofits and community service endeavors.

Next meeting: The La Jolla Traffic & Transportation Board will not meet in September. The board next meets at 4 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 20. To learn more, email bearley1@san.rr.com.