County holds last VC Road Corridor Plan workshop



The map of the proposed features of the Valley Center Road Corridor Concept Plan. The map runs from Woods Valley Road to Cole Grade Road.

 


About 75 members of the public turned out Thursday for the third and final workshop on the Valley Center Road Corridor Concept Plan. The plan would transform VC’s main thoroughfare along 2.5 miles from Woods Valley Road to Cole Grade Road, employing a series of traffic calming elements built around four 2-lane roundabouts.

Other key elements of the plan include five traffic signals; curb extensions (bulb-outs) at all signalized intersections and controlled pedestrian crossings; “continental,” highly visible, crosswalks; a controlled pedestrian crossing at Rinehart Lane; completion of the raised medians in the North and South Villages; restricted left turns, sidewalks on the east and south sides of VC Road; a Class IV separated bikeway with flexible delineator posts; and relocated bus stops. The Heritage Trail will be preserved.

If carried out, the ambitious plan will cost an estimated $52 million, including $29.3 million for construction. A lot of the remainder of the cost would be for acquiring the necessary rights of way for the roundabouts and other expansions. This is not money the County is prepared to spend. Instead, it will seek grants from SANDAG (San Diego Association of Governments) Caltrans, the federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and the federal Highway Safety Improvement Program. 

Which means that, if the plan is to be carried out, it will be done in phases over time. It is a long-term plan.

Road to Adoption

Before that process can begin, however, the plan must be voted on by the Valley Center Community Planning Group’s mobility subcommittee on August 17, and the planning group itself on September 12. This would be followed by the preparation of the Pre-Final Corridor Concept Plan followed by a CEQA (California Environmental Quality Act) analysis. 

The final acts before adoption would be votes by the Planning Commission and finally the Board of Supervisors.

Community Concerns

The recurring community concerns that led to the initiation of the project included:

  • The need for traffic calming to reduce speeding along the corridor, while keeping traffic moving.
  • Concerns over increasing numbers of collisions along the corridor.
  • The need for a comprehensive approach to corridor access management—as opposed to relying on incremental improvements through private development.
  • The need to improve safety for pedestrians and bicyclists.
  • The desire to develop more of a village atmosphere in the North and South Villages, with reduced speeds promoting a pedestrian-friendly atmosphere, “sense of place” and encouraging residents and visitors to visit Village establishments.

The roundabouts and signals would include: a two lane roundabout at Woods Valley Road to slow traffic coming into town. A signal at Mirar de Valle Road. A signal at Park Circle Way. A signal at Sunday Drive.  A two lane roundabout at Lilac Road. A signal at Old Road. A two lane roundabout at Miller Road. A signal at Indian Creek Road. A two lane roundabout at Cole Grade Road. 

Reduce Speeding/ Keep Traffic Moving

The workshop was led by project manager Kevin Johnston of the county Dept. of Planning & Development Services (PDS). The basic idea of the plan, said Johnston, is “to reduce the prevalence of speeding along the 2.5  mile corridor, while still keeping traffic moving.” He added, “We know adding roundabouts will reduce collisions and the severity of collisions. Roundabouts set the tone that you are traveling through a village.”

A study of traffic accidents between 2013-2018 show that 20 collisions occurred at Woods Valley Road, 36 collisions at Lilac Road. Miller Road & VC Road is a dangerous intersection, said Johnston. Miller was the only intersection that had a fatality during the study period. Cole Grade Road had the highest number of traffic collisions of all the intersections. Old Road, because of its unusual line of sight, sustained 14 crashes during the study period. Turns at that intersection are also dangerous.

According to Johnston, roundabouts are not only a safer type of intersection, they are also efficient in terms of keeping traffic moving. Even while “calming” traffic, they can reduce delays and lines when compared to other types of intersection. Furthermore, the lower vehicular speeds and reduced conflict environment can make it easier for pedestrians and bicycles.

Roundabouts have 82% reduction in fatal and injury crashes compared to a two-way stop controlled intersection. There is a 78% reduction in fatal and injury crashes for a signalized intersection compared to a roundabout.

There has been a concern that roundabouts are difficult for large vehicles such as fire trucks or 18-wheeler trucks to negotiate. Johnston said this is a misconception. Studies show that “as fire trucks go around a roundabout, the trucking lane will allow larger vehicles to navigate without hitting the center media and without going into adjacent lanes,” said Johnston. 

In addition, roundabouts can easily be converted for one-way traffic—such as during an evacuation— with the addition of temporary barriers.

As an example, without these traffic calming measures, said Johnston, the additional traffic would result in Valley Center Road & Sunday Drive becoming a “D” and “E” quality road, causing risky turns by motorists.

Left unsaid—but certainly part of the calculation—is that roundabouts, while more expensive than signal lights, have much smaller maintenance costs over time.

Curb extensions will also have the effect of slowing traffic by appearing to narrow the road. So will the addition of more medians, which were originally started when VC Road was widened more than a decade ago, but were left unfinished.

In addition, the proposed plan would increase safety for pedestrians by the introduction of high visibility crosswalks 

The design plan—which was funded through a Caltrans grant—derived from community concerns on excessive speeds and multiple accidents along the road. “The plan reflects your input,” said Johnston, referring to the two previous workshops. “The community wants to developer more of a village atmosphere to get people to slow down.”

This becomes more and more urgent as population increases and more cars travel on the roads, where motorists routinely travel 55 mph and more on a road that is rated at 45 mph.

After all of the audience members had visited each of the “stations” they were asked to assign priorities for 1) roundabouts, 2) traffic signals or 3) No Left Turn/Median Closing. They were given little stickers with 1, 2, or 3 on them, and encouraged to place them on a visual representation of that element.

The public has 30 days to make comments about the project, until August 20. The project email address and phone number are PDS.CommunityPlanUpdates@sdcounty.ca.gov and 858-505-6677.

Attendees at the Valley Center Road Corridor Concept Plan workshop look at various concepts proposed for Valley Center Road.

4 responses to “County holds last VC Road Corridor Plan workshop”

  1. R Michael Wilkinson says:

    I understand that the county only took comments after about 80% of the people left the meeting and then only when asked. If that was accidental then it was incompetent at best. If it was by design what would that tell you?

    Further, has anyone studied the accident rate for roundabouts in a high DUI environment? Rather than a generalization wherein a stated 4% reduction in accidents for roundabouts is noted what happens when you put them in a pipeline of people coming from the casinos? I loosely track accidents on PulsePoint and have seen more than a few at the roundabout at 76 and VC Rd..

    I am completely unconvinced. With more than a few traffic projects being reversed in San Diego County I think we need more answers.

    • Ron S says:

      Are you talking about the meeting that is the subject of this article? We were able to provide comments at each station during that portion in the middle of the meeting, and most people were still there.

  2. sally l White says:

    I think stop lights are better than round abouts. I have used them here and in Hawaii. It seems no one knows when they are supposed to go. We have a 30 ft travel trailer and will not be able to leave town in these round abouts. Also my neighbor has a 40 for horse trailer. What if we have to evacuate?? That will be a mess for sure. Most of Valley Center residents including me and my husband are against this idea. Why don’t we get to vote on this rather than have it done anyway like most things here are done. Like the 650 houses we didn’t want.

  3. Pat Hoover says:

    It seems like the others might work, but putting a roundabout at such a heavily traveled intersection at Valley Center Rd and Cole Grade rd is a disaster waiting to happen every day about 8:00 am and 5:00 pm. It is a stunningly bad decision. Roundabouts are fine for more lightly travelled intersections. Glad I’m moving away.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *