Tuesday, December 01, 2015 • 09:44

Mobility Subcommittee replies to intersection alternatives

Above, Chair Mark Jackson of the Mobility Subcommittee for the Valley Center Planning Group. photo by Susna Mish / Valley Roadrunner.
July 09, 2014
During the June 30 meeting of the Mobility Subcommittee of the Valley Center Planning Group, discussion was primarily focused on Cal Trans' three project alternative designs for the Highway 76 and Valley Center Road intersection.

The first alternative treatment presented by Cal Trans is a modern roundabout, which would slow traffic to 15 to 25 mph at all times. The project would require 3.9 acres of right of way including half an acre of farmland and total removal of a thriving business. Cost of the roundabout is $13.5 million.

The second project alternative is a signalized intersection with left-turn lanes. This would require 1.7 acres, including a third of an acre farmland and most likely the removal of a fruit/gift stand. If the lights are set to be predominantly green for Hwy 76, the traffic would stop intermittently for on-demand changes for Valley Center Road and left turns for Hwy 76. The cost of this project is $12.8 million.

The third alternative is to do nothing; however, there are two suggestions to consider. The first suggestion is to make no changes to the configuration of the two major roads. Brush and overhanging tree branches would be removed, signage improved, and lanes in all directions painted. Guard rails would be installed on the north side in front of the shops and on the southeast corner for the fruit stand. The second suggestion is to straighten the curve on Hwy 76 at the north extension of Valley Center Road in addition to improving signage and sight distances.

The Subcommittee agreed on a response to the Cal Trans project to be presented to the Planning Group for approval. The motion was summarized by Chair Mark Jackson who stated the following:

"Highway 76 is designated as a scenic highway and Valley Center Mobility Subcommittee believes that all intersection improvements should be designed with that as an objective.

The Valley Center Mobility Subcommittee agrees that this project is a mitigated negative declaration and finds no additional environmental impacts that are not already disclosed other than the following comment on scenic highway character and runaway trucks. We request that Cal Trans add substantial zero scape landscaping and other appropriate landscaping and rural highway design features to maintain the scenic character of Hwy 76.

On the design of the intersection, we concur with the goal of modification of the intersection to improve safety and sight distance and reduce the number of accidents. We believe that Cal Trans should select the appropriate alternative that traffic safety data has shown will best accomplish these goals as well as improve current level of service and travel times through the intersection.

We request that Cal Trans consider a runaway truck emergency stopping lane for westbound downhill runaway trucks if design considerations or accident history indicate a need."

The second motion concerned was which project alternative is preferred of the three presented by Cal Trans. The Subcommittee, by a 4-2 vote, favored a roundabout.

During the Subcommittee meeting, the Traffic Impact Study for the Lilac Hills Ranch Resubmitted Draft Environmental Impact Report was discussed.

Subcommittee member Steve Hutchison informed those who attended the meeting that there are at least 40 takings of property required for off-sight improvements for roads and what is being proposed by the developer Accretive Investments for the Lilac Hills Ranch Project. Not only does this involve taking driveways that are problematic because they go downhill in some segments and angles are going to make it difficult to accommodate those driveways, but it also includes taking two houses along this segment of West Lilac.

The project of the developer is only committed to building Phase 1, which consists of approximately 350 houses at the north end. Phase 2 is a commercial town center with additional housing. Phase 3 is the largest, which includes most of the housing. Phases 4 and 5 consist of senior housing and senior care facilities located at the south end.

According to Hutchison, one of the difficulties with the Lilac Hills Ranch Project is the developer has insisted on not having sequential phasing so the plan is to build Phase 1. Phase 3 is likely to be built last, although it's the largest. They haven't indicated an order. Duration of the construction will be about 10 years with Phases 1, 2, 4, and 5 each taking two years and Phase 3 taking four years.

"One of the things we need to consider is assurance that they're actually going to build all the infrastructure that these five phases need and at what schedule," Hutchison said. "The county isn't going to force them to build them all at once upfront. "

There are also fire considerations.

"If they're successful with it getting approved, it may require that they do the main road or parts of the main road that they hadn't planned on earlier," Hutchison said. "So what we're interested in having is some kind of bonded assurance that they are going to build it, bond it, and until you do that, there is no guarantee anywhere in the DEIR or Specific Plan, that any of this stuff is going to be built, particularly the commercial."

The developer is consistently evasive about many aspects of the considered LHR Project.

"The whole fantasy that this is a community development model project hinges on the fact that they're going to have this community serving a commercial town center," Hutchison said. "This is Phase 2, which will come sometime later. They're not even clear what will be in this commercial center. They don't want to be pinned down, but they say it's going to be project serving not gathering outside business."

Hutchison also pointed out that most of the improvements are in Phase 5 and this phase has been deferred as far out as possible. The public park is in Phase 3, the most significant phase, which is the last to be constructed.

Furthermore, the sewer plan requires infrastructure. Jackson noted there are two or three sewer concepts with no specific layout plans.

"This is a very unspecific Specific Plan," said Hutchison. "It's very vague with a lot of alternatives without indicating this is the one we're going with."

There is discussion about using the Moosa Canyon Water Reclamation Facility as well as transporting by truck off-site in Phase 1. The developer also has plans for a water treatment facility. Jackson estimated it would cost $50 million just to do the expansion and pipes.

"They're trying to be as noncommittal and vague as possible because they're not going to be swinging hammers and pounding nails," Hutchison said. "They're going to be selling these phases off to other builders. That's pretty much their ammo. What we're looking for is some kind of assurance that what they say they're going to do they will actually do as opposed to getting further down the road and they say, 'Gee, it's not working out for us, sorry.'"

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