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Part 6 — Roadblocks to Repair: La Jolla’s road ahead

An alleyway undergoes pothole repair in La Jolla's Village.
(Elisabeth Frausto)

This is the sixth and last part of a La Jolla Light series that looks at the conditions of area streets, seeking to answer the question, “Why does it seem so hard to get roads repaired?” The series explores the past, present and future of local street repairs and how La Jolla factors into the larger road map of San Diego.

Despite a number of barriers, La Jolla is slated to get several road repair projects done this year.

Undergrounding work

There are three utility undergrounding projects underway in La Jolla, deemed “legacy” projects, as they were begun under the previous franchise agreement with San Diego Gas & Electric. Repaving roads affected by the process of placing overhead lines underground won’t happen until the projects are completed.

A project called Block 1J Phase 1 includes La Jolla Shores west of La Jolla Shores Drive from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography south to Avenida de la Playa. Work is scheduled to be finished in the third quarter of 2023.

Block 1J Phase 2 includes La Jolla Shores east of La Jolla Shores Drive from Scripps Oceanography south to Nautilus Street (except for West Muirlands Drive). That is slated to be finished in June, though with the summer moratorium halting construction in beach areas, completion may be delayed until the fall.

Block 1M1 in the Muirlands neighborhood is expected to be completed by the end of this year.

Anthony Wagner, communications manager for SDG&E, said completion of the undergrounding projects also depends on getting the correct permits from the city of San Diego. “That does take time,” he said. “We are doing what we can.”

Separate from the undergrounding work, an SDG&E project to replace power cables already underground is in progress on Nautilus Street and is expected to continue down Via Capri imminently. It’s projected to be finished in the first quarter of 2023. Once it is complete, the city is requiring SDG&E to replace the entire concrete street panel. Previously, the city called for entities like SDG&E to only repave the trenches they created during their work.

City Councilman Joe LaCava, whose District 1 includes La Jolla, said the repaving would be from the curb to the center line, “which is the most effective way to make sure that we actually have a permanent replacement that will extend the life [of the street].”

He added that San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria and the City Council have committed “to make sure that when there is utility work that the repair work is done correctly and effectively so it is more of a permanent fix than a temporary patch.”

Some streets in La Jolla will be repaired after overhead utilities are placed underground.
(Elisabeth Frausto)

La Jolla Parkway

In addition to the repaving associated with undergrounding projects, La Jolla Parkway, the main thoroughfare linking Highway 52 and Interstate 5 to La Jolla Shores and The Village, will be resurfaced as part of Gloria’s “Sexy Streets” initiative.

Representatives of San Diego’s nine City Council districts were invited to suggest streets for resurfacing. LaCava said he nominated La Jolla Parkway “because it had been ignored for too long.” But he acknowledged the complexity, inconvenience and expense associated with the four-lane road.

“The long-overdue road repair of La Jolla Parkway will be disruptive and will not occur during the summer moratorium.”

— San Diego City Councilman Joe LaCava

City spokesman Anthony Santacroce said the area overlaps with California Department of Transportation property and that the city would need an encroachment permit to proceed.

“The Caltrans encroachment permit process is underway, and we anticipate receiving the permit by this September,” Santacroce told the La Jolla Light. Work would begin soon after.

He said the logistics of the project would be discussed during a meeting before the start date. Thus, few details are available as to how the resurfacing would be done.

However, Santacroce does expect the work will require “lane closures and work to be performed at night.”

Resurfacing of La Jolla Parkway could begin near the end of the year, said San Diego city spokesman Anthony Santacroce.
Resurfacing of La Jolla Parkway could begin near the end of the year, according to San Diego city spokesman Anthony Santacroce.
(Ashley Mackin-Solomon)

The work on La Jolla Parkway will be split into two phases, he said. The first phase will take place between La Jolla Scenic Drive and Hidden Valley Road. The second phase will be from La Jolla Scenic Drive toward Interstate 5.

“We anticipate work on this project will begin near the end of the year,” he said.

LaCava previously said community planning groups will be notified in advance of the work “so residents, employees and businesses are alerted to the temporary disruption and delays. The long-overdue road repair of La Jolla Parkway will be disruptive and will not occur during the summer moratorium [from Memorial Day to Labor Day annually].”

He called the planned repaving “more challenging” because of the heavy use of Torrey Pines Road, which La Jolla Parkway becomes at La Jolla Shores Drive in an area known as “The Throat.”

“Torrey Pines Road has 60,000 cars a day; to repave that is a very complicated process and very inconvenient for people who travel that road,” LaCava said.

In addition to La Jolla Parkway, other streets recommended for resurfacing include sections of Neptune Place, La Jolla Rancho Road, Romero Drive, Soledad Road, La Jolla Mesa Drive, Fay Avenue, Pearl Street and Forward Street.

The future of roadwork

The city uses a complicated matrix to decide which streets to repair and how. Factors include an Overall Condition Index, whether the area is slated for projects that would break up the street’s surface, the volume of traffic on a particular road, the type of road, its maintenance history and “funding availability.”

The 100-point OCI rating system classifies streets in one of three categories:

• Good: The street has little or no cracking and very few potholes or other problems. It has excellent drivability and needs little maintenance or remedial repair. A street in good condition has an OCI rating between 70 and 100.

• Fair: The street has moderate cracking, minor potholes and adequate drivability. It typically needs remedial repairs and a slurry seal. A street in fair condition has an OCI rating between 40 and 69.

• Poor: The street has severe cracking and many areas of failed pavement with possible base failure, and is a rough ride. It qualifies for comprehensive repair or total reconstruction. A street in poor condition has an OCI rating between 0 and 39.

Santacroce said the city’s adopted budget for the 2022 fiscal year includes funding for another Overall Condition Index study. The data collection is expected to start in coming months. However, the assessment takes six to 12 months to complete.

To help address the future of roadwork and how it is executed, LaCava said an infrastructure bill coming out of Washington, D.C., has significant dollars that the city of San Diego is “positioning itself to be very competitive in getting.”

He said the federal funding would come “over a number of years to really change the conversation in terms of infrastructure and especially street repair.”

Today, he said, “we’re trying to put ... dollars where we can make the greatest impact right now on neighborhoods and communities … of concern [those considered long underserved]. Once we get access to more dollars where we can change how that priority works, I’m very hopeful that we’ll see much more street work here in La Jolla.” ◆