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Silverado roundabout proposal drawing fire

A ground swell of public support is building for diverting approximately $800,000 earmarked for construction of a traffic circle at Silverado and Prospect streets and Draper Avenue to the Torrey Pines Road Corridor.

City traffic engineer Mike Arnold told the La Jolla Traffic & Transportation (TNT) Board at its Sept. 24 meeting that money is already in the city’s budget for the new traffic circle.

After the meeting, architect Robert Thiele, who has been guiding planning on the Torrey Pines Road Corridor project, said in an e-mail that the traffic circle proposal puts the cart before the horse.

“How all of a sudden did this project move from an unfunded, get-community-input project to a designed project?” he asked. “Before we go and spend a bunch of money on a project that truly impacts the neighborhood, there should be some prioritization process and a lot more community input. There are projects with a greater community benefit for safety and beautification, namely Torrey Pines Road.”

First District Councilwoman Sherri Lightner said her staff is investigating the possibility of diverting funds from the traffic circle - a capital improvement project with monies already allocated - to the road corridor, but added that there are significant obstacles to be overcome.

“We’ve been told if the community decides they don’t want the project, it’s not automatic that the money goes straight to what the community wants, that normally it goes back into the capital improvement fund and goes to the next project that comes along.”

She said her office is working with city staff to find out if there’s a way in which the money could be diverted.

“We haven’t given up on that, but we’ve been told from the get-go that it usually doesn’t happen that way,” the councilwoman added.

Arnold told those at the Sept. 24 meeting that the “project has been off and on for a few years. We’ve been working with stakeholders from the Women’s Club, St. James by-the-Sea and the San Diego Museum of Art on a traffic roundabout to improve pedestrian access and do some traffic calming.”

Roughly 22 parking spaces would be displaced by the traffic circle, but would be compensated for by turning a one-block section of Silverado into a one-way street, he said. Then diagonal parking could be added on both sides of that street.

His presentation didn’t go over well with the audience or TNT board members.

“I represent a lot of people living off Torrey Pines Road who’d really like to have those funds redirected to start bluff stabilization, build new sidewalks and redo the corridor along Torrey Pines which has become a major problem with pedestrian access, because there is none,” community activist Sherri Nooravi said.

TNT member John Beaver said he’s “been driving that street for 28 years and I can’t see one advantage to putting in a traffic circle there.

“One-way streets are also an irritation,” he added. “I think this one would cause a significant change in the amount of traffic feeding into that circle.”

Windansea resident Melinda Merryweather questioned the wisdom of the proposal.

“A bus cannot make its way from La Jolla Boulevard down to Girard (Avenue),” she said. “The road is not wide enough: It is an accident waiting to happen.”