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Light Heights
Ann Gardner | Via Latina

Photo Diana Scheffler

The 8-2 vote in favor of a traffic light at Mercado and Del Mar Heights Road came after almost two hours of conflicting input from numerous speakers at the Torrey Pines Community Planning Board meeting on November 14. Board members, responding to those in opposition who wanted a delay until a complete study of traffic calming options had been completed, explained they had been working unsuccessfully on that for “decades.” They stressed that the only realistic option was to move ahead with the traffic light even though it was not a complete solution to the increase in four-lane traffic that separates the two neighborhoods. It was generally agreed that the existing traffic lights and crosswalks at Mango and Crest with a long stretch in between that cuts families off from shopping, open space and schools, depending on which side of the Road they live on, is not safe.

s According to Diana Scheffler, resident and former Board member, the traffic light has been controversial since at least 2001; the issue keeps coming up from parents of school age children who cross, or more often would like to cross, the dangerous four lanes to get to school. In 2001, as a result of requests from the community, the City contracted with Engineering Consultants to prepare a recommended design. The resulting 2007 proposal included landscaped raised medians and a signal at Mercado but a ballot measure to pay for landscape maintenance of the medians failed. In 2015 the community once again petitioned the City for safety measures and the light alone was proposed but delayed by a split community. In 2018, after the City had declined grant funding for a complete streets study, the Board followed up on City staff’s suggestions by submitting a Capital Improvement request for a light and the reduction of traffic lanes to slow traffic. When the engineering study showed that the Mercado intersection qualified for a traffic signal, the Board was asked to vote approval of that location. However, opposition erupted again, petitions were collected, battle lines formed and the meeting on the 14th was scheduled for making a decision.

Opposition claimed that traffic lights increased the likelihood of accidents and drivers would use residential streets to avoid waiting for the light to change. Supporters cited the “decades” of trying to get San Diego City funds to slow traffic on the Heights Road and felt that turning down the light for a more comprehensive approach would result in nothing being done for perhaps another decade. They hoped a vote to approve a traffic signal with pedestrian- controlled features and marked crosswalks at Mercado and Del Mar Heights now could be the first step to a more complete solution in the future.

 

 

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