Torrey Pines Corridor Project Update: Phase 1 to begin in 2015

By Ashley Mackin

The approved Phase I of the Torrey Pines Road Corridor Project and the concept for Phase II were presented at the La Jolla Traffic and Transportation (T&T) meeting July 24. The first phase of the $25-30 million multi-phase project will begin January 2015.

It would make the north side of Torrey Pines Road more pedestrian-friendly and build a sidewalk on the south side between Calle Juela and Roseland Drive with curb ramps on each end.

David Li, Phase 1 Project Manager, explained ADA-accessible curb ramps would also be installed where the following streets meet Torrey Pines Road: Coast Walk, Princess Street, Viking Way, St. Louis Terrace, Little Street, Calle de la Plata and all four corners of La Jolla Shores Drive at Torrey Pines Road.

Additionally, sunken or damaged sidewalks will be replaced where needed, such as on Princess Street, portions of Viking Way and Calle de la Plata.

Further, the plan calls for four streetlights to be moved to ensure they do not interfere with the pedestrian walkway.

During construction, Li said, there should be two lanes of vehicle traffic open on the north side, with only the bike lane being closed off. On the south side, the right lane will be closed from Roseland to Calle Juela.

The estimate for Phase I is $293,000 for construction, which will take about 85 working days. Because La Jolla is subject to both a summer moratorium and holiday moratorium, Li said he did not want to start the project, have it put on pause during the moratoriums and resume again in the new year, opting instead to start the project and have it continue uninterrupted in January 2015. However, the work schedule is subject to rain delays.

District 1 City Councilmember Sherri Lightner, who was present at the meeting, said in addition to pedestrian improvements, her office is also working with Streets Division to trim vegetation in the public right-of-way, increase traffic accessibility, and lower the fences on the ocean side of Torrey Pines Road. The goal, she said, is to improve ocean views from the public right-of-way and provide some form of traffic calming.

Proposed Phase II

When Phase I is complete, which Steven Bliss from the office of Traffic Engineering Operation said would “ease pedestrian circulation” around Roseland Drive, the next step would build on that and attempt to further ease pedestrian activity around Amalfi Street and Hillside Drive.

One idea proposed is to build a new sidewalk between Amalfi Street and Hillside Drive on the south side of Torrey Pines Road.

The city is also proposing the installation of a high-intensity activated crosswalk (HAWK) beacon mid-block between Amalfi Street and Princess Street.

The HAWK system — which would involve the installation of a pole and mast arm over Torrey Pines Road with indicator lights — is a pedestrian-generated crosswalk that uses a series of light signals to dictate who can proceed in traffic. Bliss explained that when not in use, the system is dark, and traffic flows uninterrupted.

When a pedestrian activates the beacon by pushing a button, alternating yellow lights begin to flash, cautioning drivers to slow down and be aware of potential pedestrian activity. Initially, the pedestrian sees the “don’t walk” signal of a solid red hand.

The flashing yellow lights eventually become a solid yellow light, which Bliss said should be regarded as a yellow light at an intersection, and drivers should prepare to stop. When the solid yellow goes to a solid red, the pedestrian sees a “walk” signal and can cross. After about seven seconds, a timer starts to count down how long the pedestrian has remaining to cross. As the timer is counting down, the solid red light starts flashing. At that point, drivers must stop, but can proceed if safe and the pedestrian is not in front of them.

La Jolla Community Planning Association President Joe LaCava noted the HAWK system addresses concerns that were raised as this project was in its design phase a decade ago. He said he thought there would be minimal disruption to the flow of traffic along Torrey Pines Road because of how infrequently the crosswalk would be activated. There is currently a HAWK system in Chula Vista, and one planned for Mission Valley.

Other suggestions for Phase II are an asphalt concrete overlay, a buffered bike lane and a non-raised, decorative median.

Funding for Phase II — $1.2 million — would likely come from grants, for which Lightner’s office says it is “extensively” searching. Hoping to apply for grants during the 2015 cycle, Lightner said she hopes to have this phase done in 2016 or early 2017.

Dan Allen, chair of La Jolla Parks & Beaches, was on the committee that assisted with the design of the plan. He noted the emphasis 10 years ago was “traffic calming” with the possibility of narrowing lanes or installing green lanes. He questioned whether noticeable traffic-calming measures were being integrated into the plan.

Lightner indicted that is the goal of the overall plan. However, she said funding for the later phases could take years to secure, so the idea is to fix what they can with the funds they have.

“We do not have the hope of getting ($25 million) for a goodly amount of time. It’s not a high priority with respect to some of the other roadways in the City of San Diego,” she said.