Safety concerns drive first working group meeting about planned Torrey Pines Road guardrail
The first meeting of a community working group formed to offer feedback about a planned guardrail on Torrey Pines Road in La Jolla focused on bicyclist safety and protection for adjacent residents.
The group’s informal meeting June 26 at the La Jolla/Riford Library drew about 20 people, including representatives of the city of San Diego’s Engineering & Capital Projects Department.
The project would install about 350 feet of bridge rail on the north side of Torrey Pines Road between Prospect Place and Coast Walk, where there currently is a white K-rail.
The existing sidewalk, curb and gutter in that area are to be removed and replaced.
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The bridge rail was chosen because “it has a narrower footprint,” city project manager Nazie Mansury said, which allows more room for pedestrians and bicyclists.
The project is in the design and environmental phase, which is expected to end in spring 2025. Construction would start the next winter, with completion estimated in summer 2026.
The projected cost is $1.47 million, paid for with help from a $718,700 grant from the California Department of Transportation’s Highway Safety Improvement Program. The grant funding will support the design and construction phases, but with limitations on design.
Additional funding became available from the city that brought the budget to nearly $1 million; the project is considered partially funded.
The guardrail idea has been percolating since early drawings were produced by La Jolla residents in the mid-2000s with the aim to improve safety on Torrey Pines Road for pedestrians and people on non-motorized vehicles.
Various studies were completed in 2005, 2007, 2009 and 2011, but “each time it comes back up, we don’t have the funds” to implement ideas, said working group organizer Katheen Neil.
The K-rail was installed as a protective measure after a car careened off Torrey Pines Road onto the hillside in 2018, landing in the yard of one of the Coast Walk houses below.
In 2019, a pedestrian-activated HAWK beacon was installed on Torrey Pines that allows traffic to proceed uninterrupted unless activated by someone wanting to cross the street.
Also that year, the Torrey Pines Road Corridor Project created a new sidewalk on the south side of Torrey Pines, an asphalt concrete overlay with striping of buffered bike lanes, a painted asphalt median and more.
At the June 26 working group meeting, La Jollan Ray Weiss implored the project engineers to ensure the sidewalk is well-lighted.
Weiss, who lives in The Village and walks to work at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, said that as there are no streetlights on that stretch of Torrey Pines, “during the wintertime I walk home in the dark. The headlights of the oncoming traffic … shine directly on people walking on that sidewalk.”
“Before the K-rail was put in there, there was no problem because the sidewalk was illuminated by those same headlights,” he said. “So I’m hoping the rail that’s designed will be designed in such a way that the sidewalk can be illuminated.”
The bridge rail is see-through and will allow headlights to illuminate the sidewalk, said Mastaneh Ashrafzadeh, a city civil engineer.
Many in attendance called for better safety for bicyclists.
“People drive extremely fast,” frequent cyclist Jesse Caveney said.
He suggested adding flexible stanchions to delineate and protect where bicyclists are riding.
Avid cyclist Michael McCormack rides that section of Torrey Pines often. “I ride on the sidewalk,” he said, citing dangers to cyclists.
“When you’re looking at the design requirements, realize that scooters, wheelchairs and all the other sorts of accessible rolling things are using that stretch,” McCormack said. Accommodating wheeled vehicles “needs to be part of the design criteria right from the get-go,” he said.
Ashrafzadeh said “we can always go back to the [city] Transportation Department and see if there’s anything they want to add to the scope.” But she said that would change the project timeline, which could put the Caltrans grant at risk.
Residents of Coast Walk expressed their own concerns about the area.
When the car went down the slope in 2018, Tom Rushfeldt’s Coast Walk home and others were severely damaged.
“We’re very sensitive to the idea of any potential disruption of the actual hillside,” Rushfeldt said. “We’re concerned about the stability of the hill as a result of the multiple insurance claims. Safety has to be the No. 1 concern.”
Mansury said “this is a safety project. Those are priorities for us.”
— La Jolla Light staff writer Ashley Mackin-Solomon contributed to this report. ◆