The Rancho Santa Fe Post

Op-ed: Traffic Signals Appropriate Solution to Intersection Woes in the Ranch

I was interested to read the March 12, 2015 RSF Review article about roundabouts/traffic signals.  I believe that traffic signals are an appropriate solution to the traffic challenges faced by residents who must routinely enter and exit along Paseo Delicias/Del Dios Highway and the challenges of cut-through traffic onto side streets.

In 2004 my community of Fairbanks Ranch voted on a proposal to spend our Association dollars to build roundabouts in the middle of San Dieguito Road.  I read a number of detailed studies of successful roundabouts, and concluded that unless one is designing infrastructure for a new community, or has vast amounts of county easement property at one's disposal, it is challenging to build roundabouts that will not pose problems.  One must take into account lack of existing road width, lack of existing right-of-way, and the issue of how much private land should the public take by eminent domain to build roundabouts.

Oregon State Dept. of Transportation has a good website on roundabouts, among several other states and a number of European countries. I recall one roundabouts study that had dedicated land for vehicles (designed to easily and safely move fire trucks and large commercial carriers without their rolling over); dedicated lane for horses; dedicated lane for bicyclists, and dedicated lane for pedestrians.  If one has enough land, traffic engineers can and have designed beautiful roundabouts.  Are there not concerns that taking property by eminent domain will still not provide enough land to create beautiful and functional roundabouts? Don MacNeil noted the number of parking spaces that would be taken at the Village Church.

When I first moved to Fairbanks Ranch I used to pay rather close attention to RSFA's refusal to allow traffic signals, and the long opposition to resolving the annual flooding at the "former" La Bajada dip.  When the first traffic signal was installed west of Chino's, I thought it was brilliant that the Covenant requested them be painted dark brown.  Tasteful and elegant.  When the RSF Fire Protection District finally weighed in that not addressing the seasonal flooding at La Bajada resulted in increased emergency response times, your community buckled down and corrected the problems with the County's too-tall bridge design.  An attractive and very functional bridge was built.  Looking back, it seems irresponsible that all of us were required for decades to drive around detours.

The most significant factor, to me, to not build roundabouts on Del Dios Highway is the roadway would likely be a main evacuation artery during a wildfire.  The Cedar wildfire of October 2003 burned over 280k acres, destroyed 2,232 homes, killed 15 people, and injured 104 firefighters. Esquire Magazine published a chilling article on that fire; I still blanch whenever I re-read the passage of how the survivors, mind you, described the horrific challenges of evacuating in the middle of the night with greatly reduced visibility due to no lights and thick smoke.  Would any of us be more likely to safely and quickly evacuate via Del Dios Highway with large roundabouts obstructing perhaps half of the roadway at those intersections?  Would evacuees, under panic conditions, be more capable of executing the required protocols to safely move through a roundabout in low visibility conditions?  View the several renderings on this website of both the intersection with traffic signals and the attractively landscaped roundabouts.  Place yourself in those photos. Which traffic control device do you believe would more safely move vehicles through the community in nighttime, low-visibility wildfire evacuation conditions:  traffic signals or roundabouts

For the safety of your community and neighboring communities to the east, I hope serious consideration is given to the challenges roundabouts pose in providing a wide, unencumbered evacuation pathway to the coast.  We have been blessed that our several evacuations have occurred during non-smokey daylight conditions. How long will our luck hold?

Marlene King
Fairbanks Ranch resident

Have an opinion on the traffic options in the Ranch? We want to hear from you. Submit your op-ed below, but remember the etiquette: