Last updated 11/7/2011

Latest news

At the Tuesday November 8, 2011 Carlsbad City Council meeting (6 PM), city staff is seeking a reduction of the speed limit from 45 MPH to 40 MPH on La Costa Avenue, and they will be advancing their long-term vision to further reduce speeds through the installation of multiple roundabouts and numerous curb extensions and medians. I encourage you to contact the City Council and/or testify at their meetings, if you want your concerns heard.

Note: I have not had the opportunity to do a detailed update of this web site in the last few months, but the information on it is still pertinent.

In July of 2011, one of the two westbound travel lanes was removed between Romeria Street (about halfway between Rancho Santa Fe Road and El Camino Real) on the east and Fairway Lane (near El Camino Real) on the west. In the extended plan, the City plans to further narrow La Costa Avenue down to one lane in each direction for almost the entire length, replace the traffic signal at Romeria Street with a roundabout, and install a roundabout at Nueva Castilla Way. In addition, they plan extensive road-narrowing curb extensions and medians throughout the project area. This comes at an estimated cost of $3.1 to $4.7 million. Consideration is also being made for five additional roundabouts (not in the current budget): one to replace the light at Viejo Castilla Way, one at the entrance to the new condo complex on the western portion, one to replace the light at Cadencia Street, one at Calle Madero, and one at Gibraltar Street.

For details on the project, see the following documents:

Overview/older news

Residents with driveways along La Costa Avenue (predominantly between Fairway Lane and Calle Madero) have been expressing safety concerns about speeding and accidents to the City of Carlsbad for several years. In addition, a liability lawsuit against the City, which arose from a motorcycle accident, was settled for $2.9 million in February 2011. The City is taking multiple disruptive actions to address these alleged safety and liability issues.

On June 28, 2011 The Carlsbad City Council voted to remove a westbound travel lane between approximately Romeria Street and Fairway Lane based on a recommendation from City traffic engineering staff (the interim "hybrid" plan or "partial road diet"). The actual restriping is scheduled to occur by the end of July 2011. I am concerned about congestion in the area of the lane removal during the morning commute, and I feel that the City may be in violation of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) by implementing this plan without thorough environmental review. I feel there were alternatives that would have reduced speeding and liability, as well as enhanced the safety of residents who live along the road, yet retained all of the travel lanes to maintain the current road capacity. This would have minimized congestion now and in the future, as projects like La Costa Town Square and new residential developments are completed and bring additional traffic to the area.

However, the City opted to remove the lane segment in the short term. Although this plan was called "interim," it is only interim in that it will be replaced in the future by the City's longer-term plan to eliminate additional travel lane segments and install further traffic calming measures starting in about two years or more (2013?). City staff is currently preparing plans to further reduce the road to one travel lane in each direction for almost the full length between Rancho Santa Fe Road and El Camino Real (a "full road diet"). This is to be followed by installation of two roundabouts (one at Viejo Castilla Way and another to replace the signal at Romeria Street), "bulb-outs" at other intersections, curb extensions between intersections, some medians, and significant landscaping. The projected cost is $3 million to $6 million, and ongoing maintenance costs will likely be substantial due to the significant landscaping. These plans will likely be presented to the City Council in the September 2011 time frame.

I encourage you to read the remainder of this web site for details, and please provide your feedback to the City Council and encourage others to do so. Also, please join my email list by sending a request to slinke.clc@gmail.com for future updates.


You can provide public testimony at the City Council meeting by filling out a speaker slip at the beginning of the meeting. You can also call, mail, and/or email the City Council with your feedback:

Summary of concerns
The following is a summary of major points related to the traffic calming projects. Details for each point, including additional discussion and references, are available in the Details section below.
  • Although we should strive to further minimize accidents, the accident rate on La Costa Avenue has not increased for the last 25 years and is significantly below state averages for similar roadways, despite increases in traffic volume. Jump to details.
  • Although we also should strive to minimize excessive speeding, City data indicate that speeds have not been increasing over time, and that there is a relatively small number of drivers traveling at imprudent speeds. Jump to details.
  • Although there has been ample opportunity for the City to inform the public of the impending travel lane elimination, the topic has been avoided or downplayed. Jump to details.
  • Although the topic of travel lane elimination was avoided by the City in a public survey on La Costa Avenue traffic calming, a high proportion of respondents provided write-in comments, and an overwhelming 90% were opposed. Jump to details.
  • Ironically, the City's current "hybrid" interim plan to eliminate a westbound travel lane (partial road diet) does not fully address the main allegations in the liability lawsuit. Sight distance is still inadequate, and dangerous left turns and sight obstructions due to parked cars remain. Jump to details.
  • Alternative plans could address the liability and safety issues virtually as well, or better than, the partial road diet without eliminating travel lanes (jump to details):
    • Conversion of the center turn lane into a full-width painted median with parking restriction
    • Conversion of the center lane into a narrowed median with strategic parking restriction
  • A City-sponsored traffic calming study completed in September 2008 concluded that travel lane elimination was not recommended for La Costa Avenue due to projected congestion problems that are unacceptable based on the City's Growth Management Program. Jump to details.
  • The City has gone through several iterations of re-evaluating the data and results from the 2008 traffic study to arrive at the desired conclusion that travel lane elimination is OK. This has involved changing assumptions and methods, including the use of an unvalidated method that assumes all of Carlsbad's roads can handle ridiculously high volumes of traffic (1,800 vehicles per lane per hour)--a method which apparently has also been used to make other important City decisions. Jump to details.
  • Validated road segment traffic projection methods estimate the peak (rush) hour capacity of La Costa Avenue to be about 750 to 840 vehicles per lane per hour. The proposed "hybrid" interim plan will reduce westbound La Costa Avenue from two travel lanes to one in road segments that, in 2007-2008, were carrying between 680 and 930 vehicles in the peak hour, exceeding the capacity limit of a single lane. Jump to details.
  • To help justify to the City Council an additional $112,000 request for further traffic calming study and design, City staff claimed that $25,000 had been spent for the outside traffic consultant to re-evaluate the data based on methods that other agencies use, and that their conclusion was that a road diet was feasible. However, the re-evaluation was actually a quick calculation done internally at the City using Carlsbad methods. Jump to details.
  • The City's General Plan defines La Costa Avenue as a "Secondary Arterial" with four travel lanes, intended to handle volumes of 10,000-20,000 daily trips, which is inconsistent with travel lane elimination. Jump to details.
  • Traffic volume is already at about 18,000 daily trips for the most relevant area of the road being reduced to one lane, and it is projected to exceed 20,000 in the next few years, which is already at the maximum capacity of the current four-travel lane "secondary arterial" designation in the General Plan and pushes limits of road diets. Jump to details.
  • La Costa Avenue is not eligible for the City's conventional traffic calming program, because it is an arterial route, but that makes it even more critical that the relevant procedures are followed, including scientifically sound methods to assess the performance of any interim striping plan. Jump to details.
  • Although the striping plan is being presented as “interim,” a thorough environmental review, including a traffic impact analysis, is the right thing to do prior to any travel lane elimination, and it is likely required by CEQA law (jump to details):
    • Restriping plans are exempt from CEQA environmental review only if they are intended to reduce congestion.
    • Expert opinions and other data indicating potential congestion create a “fair argument” that a CEQA environmental review is required.
    • The existence of “probable future projects,” including the La Costa Avenue traffic calming project, as well as La Costa Town Square, further support the need for environmental review of the interim partial road diet.
  • The City of Oceanside tried a road diet on Vista Way, which shares characteristics with La Costa Avenue, with arguably disappointing results. Jump to details.
For a more detailed chronological history of events related to La Costa Avenue, see the separate Detailed History page (under construction).

Contents

  1. 1 Latest news
  2. 2 Overview/older news
  3. 3 Details
    1. 3.1 Accident rate has not increased over last 25 years and is significantly below state averages
    2. 3.2 Speed surveys suggest that speed limit is largely being observed
    3. 3.3 Public input on travel lane elimination plans has been discouraged
    4. 3.4 Opinion survey indicates public opposition to travel lane elimination
    5. 3.5 Travel lane elimination does not directly address liability issues
    6. 3.6 Alternative plans could address issues as well or better than City plan without elimination of travel lanes
      1. 3.6.1 Painted median/no parking alternative
      2. 3.6.2 Narrowed/shifted median alternative
    7. 3.7 2008 traffic calming study recommended against travel lane elimination
      1. 3.7.1 Projected congestion exceeds limits in Carlsbad's Growth Management Program
    8. 3.8 Troubling "re-evaluations" of the 2008 traffic calming study
      1. 3.8.1 Inconsistent June 2008 and September 2008 versions of traffic study
      2. 3.8.2 March 2011 data re-evaluation for City Council by City staff
      3. 3.8.3 June 2011 data re-evaluation for Traffic Safety Commission and City Council by KOA
      4. 3.8.4 Traffic impact study methods, including the unvalidated Carlsbad method
      5. 3.8.5 Carlsbad's annual Traffic Monitoring Program
    9. 3.9 Travel lane elimination is inconsistent with Carlsbad's General Plan
    10. 3.10 High current and projected traffic volumes already push secondary arterial limits
    11. 3.11 Traffic calming program procedures and scientific methods
      1. 3.11.1 Carlsbad Residential Traffic Management Program
      2. 3.11.2 Scientific methods to ensure feasibility
    12. 3.12 California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) likely requires a thorough traffic impact study
      1. 3.12.1 Public participation required by CEQA 
      2. 3.12.2 A road diet is a good candidate for an EIR 
      3. 3.12.3 Inconsistency with a General Plan makes it a better candidate for an EIR 
      4. 3.12.4 An existing expert opinion recommending against the road diet makes it an even better candidate for an EIR 
      5. 3.12.5 Probable future traffic calming projects that will be contingent upon, and likely directly follow, the road diet further bolster the case for an EIR 
    13. 3.13 Vista Way road diet/traffic calming
  4. 4 Map
  5. 5 Links to City information, news articles, and opinion articles

Details

Accident rate has not increased over last 25 years and is significantly below state averages

The City has a database of reported collisions in the area of interest. The following table is based on data from: (1) An Agenda Bill (#9475) from a June 14, 1988 City Council meeting, (2) the September 2008 KOA Phase I report (pages 45-46), and (3) a La Costa Avenue Collision Summary dated 4/8/2011.
   
 Year Number of reported collisions
 Source
 1986 11
 1
 1987 11 1
   
 2003 ~6 2
 2004 ~6 2
 2005 ~7 2,3
 2006 7 3
 2007 11 3
 2008 11 3
 2009 4 3
 2010 7 3
  • The number of reported collisions has remained relatively stable (averaging about 8 per year) over the last 25 years, despite traffic volume increases.
  • Consistently, these rates are significantly below statewide averages for similar roadways.
  • The collisions are spread over the entire area of La Costa Avenue.
We should strive to produce safer conditions for the residents who live along the road, as every accident creates concern. However, the data indicate that the situation is not necessarily severe or worsening. Wherever there are cars, there will be accidents--including serious ones. It is impossible to prevent all accidents.

Speed surveys suggest that speed limit is largely being observed

  • A speed survey conducted on 3/15/2011 resulted in 85th percentile speeds of 45-47 MPH, with none of the surveyed cars exceeding 52 MPH.
  • An April 2007 report from the City's Traffic Engineering department to the City Council acknowledged that historical traffic citation and speed surveys do not show speed increases over time.
  • A Speed Sentry survey conducted in July of 2006 suggests that only ~24 of ~9,000 cars per day were traveling at 60+ MPH.
Simply lowering the speed limit on La Costa Avenue may seem like a quick and easy fix to some. Ironically, though, state policy prevents the City from doing this unless traffic slows down first. The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) has a policy (Policy Directive 09-04) that requires "rational and defensible" determination of speed limits to produce realistic speed zoning. The policy is based on extensive scientific studies, and the goal is to prevent governments from setting arbitrarily low speed limits for the purposes of generating revenue from speed traps, thereby losing the respect of the public.

The mandated method is to conduct a speed survey on the roadway, and then set the speed limit at the nearest 5 MPH increment from the 85th percentile (the speed at which 85% of the surveyed cars were traveling slower). Studies have shown that this is a "reasonable and prudent" maximum speed given the knowledge of the local drivers. For example, if the 85th percentile speed of the surveyed cars was between 43 and 47 MPH, then the speed limit would be set at 45 MPH, or, if the 85th percentile speed was between 48 and 52 MPH, then the speed limit would be set at 50 MPH. There is an exception mechanism that allows the speed limit to be reduced 5 MPH below the mandated level when there are special "conditions not readily apparent" to drivers. However, the exceptions are apparently very difficult to justify and may not hold up in court.

Past speed surveys conducted on La Costa Avenue in the proposed project area (e.g., one conducted on 12/2/2004) have resulted in an 85th percentile speed of 48 MPH, which meant that the 45 MPH speed limit was unenforceable by radar or laser. However, in February of 2011, the City installed signs warning drivers of the presence of residential driveways, and they installed a series of digital signs that tell drivers how fast they are going. A new speed survey conducted on 3/15/2011 resulted in 85th percentile speeds of 45-47 MPH, with none of the 400 surveyed cars exceeding 52 MPH. Not only did this lead to a re-certification of the 45 MPH speed limit on 4/25/2011, but it also suggests, perhaps contrary to some perceptions, that speeding is not a major issue on the roadway. The City's installation of the signage appears to be having a positive effect.


This does not mean that there are not a few drivers who greatly violate the speed limit, particularly at certain times of day. A Speed Sentry survey done at Nueva Castilla Way over a four-day period in July of 2006 identified ~24 cars per day traveling at 60+ MPH. However, traffic volume at that location during that time period was ~18,000 cars (~9,000 in each direction), and it is questionable whether eliminating lanes or other traffic calming measures are going to reign in the tiny fraction of extremely imprudent drivers.

Public input on travel lane elimination plans has been discouraged

At their March 22, 2011 meeting, the City Council authorized the expenditure of $112,000 on a public outreach campaign and traffic calming design project. At that meeting, City traffic engineering staff and a traffic calming consultant stated that a survey and public meetings would be used to collect opinions on the proposed changes to “evolve an eventual community-preferred plan." The staff report submitted to the City Council in advance of the meeting stated: "The proposed work program allows residents to participate in the development of [the] interim striping plan." And, in direct response to a question from Councilman Blackburn about the proposed interim road diet, the following statement was made: “I don’t think any community wants to be told what to do, and they don’t want staff coming in with a decision this important--and neighboring communities that could be impacted--without a thorough vetting of the issues.” This was followed by an explanation that staff would only come back to the Council with the road diet plan after assessing public opinion at the April 28th public workshop.

Despite these promises, a letter and opinion survey sent to La Costa Avenue area residents on traffic calming did not directly address the elimination of travel lanes as part of the interim striping plan or contain questions about it. The letter and opinion survey first appeared on the City's web site on April 4, 2011. I asked City staff, before these documents were mailed whether the road diet could be explained better in the cover letter, and whether opinions on the road diet could be solicited in the survey. However, staff relayed to me that they and the consultants hired to do the public outreach concluded this was not a good idea based on where things already stood.

Also, public discussion has not been allowed at the public workshops, and, when vocal attendees have raised the issue of the interim striping plan (road diet), they have been quickly silenced. Despite the fact that there was a scheduled hearing before the Traffic Safety Commission (TSC) on the interim striping plan at the time of the first workshop, City staff did not inform the attendees until interrupted with that information by a member of the TSC who was later admonished. City staff justify this by claiming that discussions about the short-term elimination of travel lanes would “interfere with the development of a long-term traffic calming vision”.

In addition to avoiding the controversial area of the road diet, the survey also failed to ask for opinions on the possible negative impacts of traffic calming, such as inconvenience, congestion, longer commute times, cost, etc. Nor did the survey even ask for opinions on the more aggressive, but preferred, traffic calming measures, such as roundabouts, bulb-outs, etc. Some parts of the survey were also ambiguous such that respondents may not have known how to answer, or their answers may have been uninterpretable. For example, people were asked to express their level of concern (not, minor, somewhat, or very) about such things as traffic speed, parking, and pedestrian/bicyclist safety. Does being "very concerned" about speed in relation to traffic calming mean that the respondent is concerned that speeds are currently too high, or that speeds might get too low after traffic calming? Does being concerned about parking mean that the respondent is concerned that parking should be retained or that parking should be eliminated. And, would anybody say that they are "not concerned" about the safety of pedestrians and bicyclists?


Interestingly, at the May 2, 2011 Traffic Safety Commission meeting, City staff interpreted high percentages of concern about pedestrian and bicycling safety (49%-57%) in support of a desire for a road diet and traffic calming. However, they dismissed low levels of concern about on-street parking (8%-10%) as not being relevant, as that would argue against traffic calming.

Finally, the survey was only sent to residents in neighborhoods directly adjacent to La Costa Avenue, not those who live in other neighborhoods but use La Costa Avenue to commute. City staff claimed that they would represent these other people be proxy. However, I have seen little evidence of that.

Opinion survey indicates public opposition to travel lane elimination

Although the public opinion survey described in the previous section did not directly address the issue of travel lane elimination, many people used the comment box to write in statements. All of the results and comments are available HERE:
  • 939 surveys were submitted
  • 54% of submitted surveys (n=510) contained write-in comments
  • 36% of the comments (n=185) addressed travel lane numbers
    • 90% were opposed to elimination of travel lanes
      • n=86 leave as-is; n=80 explicitly opposed
      • Some requested that more lanes be added
    • 10% favored elimination of travel lanes (n=19)
Sample comments from the first three pages:
  • “Very opposed to narrowing LCA to one lane.”
  • “Keep LCA 2 lanes and 45 mph”
  • “Add more lanes or leave it alone.”
  • “I do not like the idea of reducing LCA to 1 lane but am open to most other concepts.”
  • “I think that reducing to 1 lane traffic in each direction is a poor approach that will result in more traffic congestion and delays.”
  • “…keep 2 lanes in both directions if you change to 1 lane it will increase traffic making it harder to pull out of side streets or out of driveways on La Costa Ave…”
  • “Bad idea to make this a one lane route that will just destroy traffic on Levante and RSF.”
  • “I heard about the plans to change LCA to one lane – absurd! It has and always been a main thoroughfare.

Travel lane elimination does not directly address liability issues

In the accident lawsuit that is creating the immediate liability concern and prompting the interim partial road diet (elimination of a westbound travel lane), the plaintiffs contended that there should be 440 feet of "sight distance," that parking should be prohibited, and that the left turn lane should be converted into a median to prevent dangerous left turns. However, the City's plan does not meet the sight distance requirement at the accident site, and it does not restrict parking or left turns.

The 12/31/2008 accident involved a westbound motorcycle striking the driver's side of a large sport utility vehicle that was attempting to make a left turn out of a residential driveway (front first) in an area of La Costa Avenue with a particularly severe blind curve.
  • The following picture is an overhead schematic of the accident. The larger red rectangle represents the SUV pulling out of the driveway, and the smaller yellow rectangle represents the motorcycle (direction of travel is indicated by arrows):

  • The following picture is a street-level view of the driveway (just beyond the parked car) looking westbound:

After extensively reviewing court papers, my interpretation is that the plaintiffs’ experts alleged that a “dangerous condition” exists on La Costa Avenue based primarily on inadequate sight distance (the length of road necessary for a driver to stop when an obstacle is first viewed). More specifically, the curves and grade changes on the road reduce the visibility between vehicles on the road and those entering or exiting driveways or intersections, such that there is not enough stopping distance to avoid a collision, given the average speeds.

There are two methods to improve the sight distance:
  1. Increase visibility (e.g., by allowing residents to pull further out of their driveway before entering a travel lane). This directly increases the sight distance.
  2. Reduce speeds. This decreases the sight distance necessary to allow the vehicles to stop to avoid the collision.
The plaintiffs put a great deal of emphasis on two specific issues on La Costa Avenue, the presence of a parking lane on the north side of the road, which causes sight obstructions in the form of parked cars, and the 1988 installation of the shared left turn lane in the middle that invites dangerous left turns, even though sight distances were known to be insufficient. Here are a couple of quotes amongst many from the lawsuit:
  • “…City has failed to remove all parking on north side of La Costa Avenue, despite knowledge that parking further impairs sight distance….”
  • “…[D]rivers are led to believe there is adequate time to make a left turn by virtue of the lack of a median precluding them from doing so and the existence of a two-way center left turn lane inviting them to do so…”
The partial road diet converts the 11-foot wide outside westbound travel lane into a bike lane. This provides 11 extra feet (without view obstruction) for cars to pull out of the driveways on the north side of the street before they enter a travel lane. However, it leaves the parking and center left turn lanes as-is:

Ironically, this elimination of the westbound travel lane, as proposed by City staff to the Traffic Safety Commission (TSC) on 6/6/2011, does not address the main allegations in the liability lawsuit, even though that is the main reason to implement the plan. The plan does not eliminate the parking lane or the center turn lane to eliminate dangerous left turns. And, while City staff claimed that only 360-365 feet of sight distance would be adequate (as opposed to the 440 feet claimed by the plaintiffs), their plan only achieves 188-240 feet of sight distance at the accident site with a car parked in the parking lane. For example, see the following slide presented to the TSC showing the inadequate 240-foot sight distance:
            

It is also important to point out that, in the City's response to the lawsuit, they had an expert accident reconstructionist who claimed that the evidence suggested that driver error was responsible for the accident, as opposed to a dangerous condition. The City was sufficiently concerned about the case against them, so they settled the lawsuit for $2.9 million (the City paid $500,000, and the City's insurance carrier paid the remainder), but it is unknown what would have happened had the case gone to trial.

Alternative plans could address issues as well or better than City plan without elimination of travel lanes

Here are two alternatives to the road diet plans that achieve similar performance without eliminating travel lanes. They could allow retaining the current traffic capacity without significant roadway changes, causing less congestion and eliminating queuing of cars at restriction points:

Painted median/no parking alternative

At the 2/8/2011 City Council meeting, City staff proposed restricting left turns by converting the center turn lane to a painted median and restricting on-street parking (see the figure on the left, above). I think these measures, which were universally supported by the La Costa Avenue Safety Group members who attended the meeting, would greatly reduce the likelihood of another incident like the motorcycle accident by increasing visibility due to the lack of parked cars, as well as prevent dangerous left turns. It would create an additional 9 feet of unobstructed view for driveway users (not significantly different than the 11 feet of the City's partial road diet plan). The Council authorized staff to draw up plans for the painted median but requested that they gather more information prior to elimination of parking. Instead, staff simply replaced this plan with a road diet at the 3/22/2011 City Council meeting.

Narrowed/shifted median alternative

Another alternative (see figure on right, above) is a modification to the painted median plan in which the median is narrowed to about three feet adjacent to the two eastbound traffic lanes. Those lanes would essentially remain as they are, and the two westbound traffic lanes would shift toward them with the narrowed painted median between them. Similar to the painted full-width median alternative, it would create an additional 9 feet of unobstructed view. However, it has the advantage of creating a contiguous bike lane. More importantly, the unobstructed view can be increased to up to 17 feet by restricting parking in areas with poor sight distances (e.g., curves and steep grades), while allowing parking in areas of sufficient sight distance.

It has been acknowledged by City staff that the road diet will do little to decrease speeds, and it still allows the arguably dangerous left turns that seem to be at the root of many of the accidents, including the motorcycle incident. In contrast, the shifted narrowed median approach would introduce a traffic calming (speed reducing) effect due to lane shifting at intersections where turn lanes would be striped. Also, mid-block left turns would be prohibited, and, unlike the full-width painted median plan, violations would be less likely with the narrowed median.

The main disadvantage of the painted median approaches is that U-turns would be required at the next intersection when residents want to access their driveways while going eastbound. However, the U-turn inconvenience should be tolerable given the improved safety for the same residents, and it should be weighed against the potential adverse effects of a full road diet on the ~18,000+ average daily trips by other drivers.

The City has made the following arguments against this alternative:
  • Sight distance improvement is not as substantial with the narrowed median alternative vs. the road diet.
    • Counter-argument: The difference in providing driveway users with a 9-foot unobstructed lane (narrowed median alternative) vs. an 11-foot unobstructed lane (road diet) is largely inconsequential for sight distance improvement in areas with curves. Only speed reduction likely will improve the situation in areas with steep grades, and the narrowed median approach is just as likely, if not more likely, to reduce speeds.
  • The restriping would be more expensive and more difficult to reverse, if necessary.
    • Counter-argument: While more expensive than a pure road diet (conversion of an entire travel lane to a bike lane), the retention of traffic capacity is worth the small incremental cost.
  • A three-foot median might not be wide enough, and drivers may not stay within the lines.
    • Counter-argument: Based on analysis of City documents, prior to 1988, La Costa Avenue had only a double-yellow line (one foot in total width) in the middle between El Camino Real and Calle Madero. This is similar to many two-lane highways that have only a double-yellow line. Thus, the double double-yellow lines (at three feet of width) should provide ample safety. To help guide traffic, raised reflective pavement markings and/or traffic cylinders could be added, with a particular concentration in curves and areas where the westbound lanes shift. Eventually, a raised median could be installed.
  • Residents with driveways along the road will ignore the left turn restriction and violate it, including running over traffic cylinders, necessitating replacement.
    • Counter-argument: A similar argument can be made about the road diet. There have been complaints about imprudent drivers willing to drive into the turn lane area on La Costa Avenue. Thus, it is not unlikely that, with only a single travel lane, imprudent drivers stuck behind a slow-moving vehicle will dangerously try to pass them in the left turn or bike lane. It is not possible to design a road that prevents imprudent drivers from making stupid moves.
A variation on these alternatives is to only implement the left turn restriction in areas with poor sight distance. The left turn lane could be retained in all other areas.

2008 traffic calming study recommended against travel lane elimination

In response to safety concerns expressed by the La Costa Avenue Safety Group in April 2007, the City Council authorized $100,000 in gas tax funds to be used to determine the feasibility of a road diet. The consulting firm KOA Corporation submitted a Phase I study report to the City dated September 2008. It concluded: “…[I]t is not recommended to implement a road diet for [La Costa Avenue]."
                            

Projected congestion exceeds limits in Carlsbad's Growth Management Program

Congestion is typically measured by "level of service" (LOS), which is rated on a grade scale from A (free flowing) to F (highly congested). Carlsbad’s Growth Management Program sets a minimum of grade “C” during off-peak hours and grade “D” during peak hours. The KOA Phase I report showed that, using San Diego Traffic Engineers' Council/Institute of Transportation Engineers (SANTEC/ITE) method on mid-block road segments, the entire western portion with residential driveways (from Romeria west) is projected to degrade from “C” to “F” with the road diet, and the entire length of the road diet will degrade to “F” in the future with La Costa Town Square and other development. KOA’s Phase I report also uses other traffic projection methods, including the Florida method for road segments and the Highway Capacity Manual (HCM) method on intersections. These methods projected somewhat lower negative impacts, but they still indicated failure of individual road segments and intersections. Thus, KOA concluded that the road diet is not recommended due to the projected congestion.
                    
                    
                    

Troubling "re-evaluations" of the 2008 traffic calming study

Perhaps you are familiar with the phrase (popularized by Mark Twain): "There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics"? An appropriate modification for the current situation might be, "lies, damned lies, and traffic impact studies." Looking at the manipulations applied over time to KOA's 2008 traffic calming study data, it seems that any desired conclusion/recommendation can be drawn, depending on preconceived notions and how one chooses the underlying assumptions, data constraints, and methods used for analysis. If low or failing grades are being earned or projected, it can be a simple matter to just try a different method, or even lower the performance necessary to get a better grade.

Inconsistent June 2008 and September 2008 versions of traffic study

As described above, there are several different methods to predict congestion. KOA used the SANTEC/ITE and Florida methods for individual road segment analysis (between intersections), both of which projected congestion failures in certain segments (e.g., LOS "E" or "F"). They also used the HCM method for individual intersection analysis, which projected congestion failures at certain intersections. In addition, they used computer software-based simulation (VISSIM) to estimate trip time through the middle portion of the road. Based on the simulation-based trip time analysis, they estimated an LOS of "B" for the road diet area as a whole. However, they provided no details on the parameters, assumptions, etc. that were used in the simulations, and individual areas were not assessed.

In a June 2008 version of their $100,000 traffic calming study, KOA focused on the poorly characterized trip time simulation method, which produced the lowest predicted congestion, concluding "...[I]t is recommended that a road diet concept be implemented along La Costa Avenue..." Former City staff were apparently dissatisfied with this recommendation, so they exerted influence over KOA to change it. Despite the fact that the September 2008 version of KOA's study contained only minimal changes to the overall analysis, KOA re-focused on the several other methods that predicted unacceptable congestion, concluding: “…[I]t is not recommended to implement a road diet for [La Costa Avenue]."

March 2011 data re-evaluation for City Council by City staff

The road diet issue re-surfaced in 2011 in the context of the motorcycle accident liability settlement and further complaints from residents. In February-March 2011, City staff conducted their own "quick" re-evaluation of the previous KOA analysis and data. Although no official report was produced, this is my understanding of their opinion, analysis, and conclusions:
  • Intersections with traffic signals did not fail in the KOA analysis
  • Although some intersections without traffic signals failed in the KOA analysis, the assumed performance of traffic calming measures (e.g., roundabouts) was underestimated, and these intersection would not fail with different assumptions
  • Although many road segments failed in the KOA analyses, they would not fail under a "Carlsbad method" in which a much higher "vehicle per lane per hour" capacity is assumed
  • With these new assumptions, a road diet is feasible
On March 22, 2011, City staff presented their "re-evaluation" information to the City Council in support of staff's recommendation to initiate the road diet and authorize another $112,000 in gas tax funds to plan future traffic calming and conduct public outreach through KOA. Both recommendations were adopted. However, there are multiple areas of concern.

One area of great concern is the "Carlsbad method" for road segment analysis. The SANTEC/ITE, Florida, and HCM methods used by KOA have undergone years of development and validation. The estimated LOS "E" capacity under these methods for a road with the characteristics of La Costa Avenue ranges from about 750 to 840 vehicles per lane per hour (vplph) in the peak (rush) hour. In contrast, the Carlsbad method assumes 1,800 vplph--more than twice that of the validated methods. And, while the validated methods logically assign different capacities based on road geometry, signal spacing, the presence or absence of driveways, parking, and pedestrian traffic, etc., the Carlsbad method uses its 1,800 vplph capacity for every traffic lane in Carlsbad.

The LOS's projected for some of the road segments in the partial road diet area on La Costa Avenue go from "A" using the Carlsbad method, to "E" or "F" using the validated methods (see table below). In fact, using the Carlsbad method, it is unlikely that any road could ever reach failure (grade "E" or "F") under real-world circumstances no matter the actual congestion level. When I have inquired of City staff, the only "validation" I have received from them is that the method has been used for many years as part of Carlsbad's Traffic Monitoring Program, and that a lot of official decisions have been made in Carlsbad based upon it. I know the La Costa Town Square traffic impact study used the "Carlsbad method" as one of its traffic congestion projection measures. I would suggest that those decisions were based, at least in part, on misleading information, and that it is not a justification to continue using the method, including for the La Costa Avenue traffic calming projects. For additional details on the Carlsbad method, see below.


            

Another area of great concern is the staff report that was presented to the City Council to support the recommendations for a road diet and the KOA contract extension. In response to an inquiry from a Council member on how the previous $100,000 had been spent, staff claimed that $75,000 had been used for the original study, but that the last $25,000 had been spent more recently for KOA to "...[re-evaluate] the ability to implement a road diet based on what other agencies have been able to accomplish, not the current Carlsbad standards," because KOA had been directed by Carlsbad staff to "limit the assumptions." The report further stated that staff "...has concluded that La Costa Avenue can be reduced to one lane in each direction of travel without resulting in traffic being diverted to adjacent residential streets."

Again, the willingness to reverse a recommendation to get a desired result based upon a manipulation of the assumptions is a bit disturbing. More importantly, the staff report is inconsistent with the fact that there had only been a quick re-evaluation by staff, and that only existing and Carlsbad methods had been considered. Staff now claims that the $25,000 was carried over for KOA, in addition to the $112,000, for the expanded project, even though there is no mention of the $25,000 in the Council's resolution to continue the KOA contract with the new funding. This all seems a bit misleading.

June 2011 data re-evaluation for Traffic Safety Commission and City Council by KOA

Then, in May-June of 2011, KOA apparently did some additional re-evaluation of their original data at the direction of City staff, using the "Carlsbad method" for at least part of the analysis, although data analysis was ongoing. This "preliminary" data was presented to the Traffic Safety Commission on June 6, 2011 to help persuade them to recommend a partial road diet to the City Council, which they did. The data suggested that the partial road diet plan will basically cause no congestion whatsoever, in contrast to the relatively severe congestion of the full road diet projected in the 2008 study. So, we went from "recommended" (June 2008), to "not recommended" (September 2008), then back to "recommended" (March 2011), and then to "ongoing study" (June 2011)--apparently based on different sets of methods, assumptions, and goals designated by the City and/or KOA.

Traffic impact study methods, including the unvalidated Carlsbad method

The road segment methods really boil down to the number of vehicles per lane per hour (vplph) that can be handled during a peak hour of traffic, and the number that represents the transition from LOS "E" to LOS "F" is typically stated. The SANTEC/ITE method has been a standard in San Diego County and was used by KOA in their 2008 study. In fact, one of the authors of the SANTEC method is an executive at KOA. That method estimates the capacity on secondary arterial roads like La Costa Avenue at 7,500 vehicles per lane per day with an estimated peak-hour capacity of 750 vplph (10% of the daily traffic). Another standard, validated method is the Florida method, which was also used by KOA in their 2008 study. It estimates the capacity of a road like La Costa Avenue at 780 vplph. Another standard, validated method is the Highway Capacity Manual (HCM) method. Depending on how specific characteristics of La Costa Avenue are assessed (Class II or Class III), it estimates capacity at 800-840 vplph.

To achieve the theoretical 1,800 vplph capacity used in the "Carlsbad method," one car would have to cross the measurement point every two seconds for the entire hour, which means the number actually represents virtual "saturation" of the road. That theoretical situation cannot be achieved in real life due to the fact that actual roads have cars turning in and out of intersections, driveways, and parking, as well as pedestrians, etc. that create congestion. Thus, using the 1,800 vplph capacity, it is likely not possible for any roadway segment to ever get an "F", or probably even an "E" in real life, guaranteeing a good grade regardless of the actual congestion level.

Carlsbad's annual Traffic Monitoring Program

Interestingly, the Carlsbad road segment method has been used since 1989 as part of Carlsbad's Traffic Monitoring Program, and many important decisions apparently have been made based, at least in part, on the approach, including La Costa Town Square. So, it comes as no surprise that the City can claim LOS "A" for almost every road in town as part of that program, no matter how much congestion there is (e.g., see the 2010 report HERE--in particular Table 2-1). The bar is so low, it is practically lying on the ground.

Travel lane elimination is inconsistent with Carlsbad's General Plan

The Circulation Element of Carlsbad’s General Plan defines La Costa Avenue as a “Secondary Arterial,” and it defines secondary arterials as having “two traffic lanes in each direction with a painted median” intended to handle a traffic volume of “10,000 to 20,000 daily trips.”                     

City staff has discussed modifying the City's General Plan to account for their changes to La Costa Avenue, such as lowering the street classification/definitions and/or modifying minimum service standards. This seems a bit hypocritical in the context of the the La Costa Town Square project, though. There is a group of people who live in the vicinity of the proposed project and are opposed to it. They formed an organization called North County Advocates, and they have filed a lawsuit against the City. The City has justified the approval of that project by citing the fact that a similar project had been in a Master Plan since 1972, and that everybody who moved into houses in the vicinity since that time should have expected it. They have also claimed that City officials have to look beyond the narrow interests of residents in the direct vicinity of the project and, instead, account for the interests of all residents/taxpayers in the City.

In a similar vein, La Costa Avenue has been an arterial route for decades, and it has been listed in the General Plan as such. Therefore, anybody who moved to the area should have been aware of this status. And many who do not live directly on the road likely chose to live there, in part, because La Costa Avenue provides rapid access to I-5-, El Camino Real, and Rancho Santa Fe Road, as expected from its classification in the General Plan. In the case of proposed changes to major roadways, I think it is the duty of City officials to widen their view to other city residents who might be affected.

La Costa Town Square and several other residential developments, such as La Costa Oaks, La Costa Valley, San Elijo Hills, and yet another multi-unit complex currently under construction on the south side of La Costa Avenue are located in areas that make the road a main route to access El Camino Real and I-5 from the east. Ironically, approval of the La Costa Town Square project relied, in part, on a traffic impact study conducted as part of a CEQA environmental review, in which it was assumed that La Costa Avenue would have its current number of travel lanes. In addition, this traffic impact analysis used the "Carlsbad method" for mid-block congestion projection, which I view as unvalidated (see above).

High current and projected traffic volumes already push secondary arterial limits

The western segment in question currently has a volume of approximately 18,000 daily trips, and La Costa Town Square is expected to increase that by more the 2,500, creating traffic volumes over 20,500 (not to mention other potential development). Meanwhile, the road diet would effectively require a change in the General Plan classification of La Costa Avenue from a Secondary Arterial (10,000-20,000 daily trips) to a lower volume classification.
                                                                                              


Even proponents acknowledge that traffic volumes at La Costa Avenue's magnitude push the limits of road diets.

There is a fair amount of literature describing "road diets" where four traffic lanes are reduced to two traffic lanes plus a shared center left-turn lane. Assuming this literature is accurate, it seems that roadways that carry 16,000 or less average daily trips typically have no problems after a road diet. However, the evidence seems a bit less clear for roadways that carry 16,000 to 20,000 average daily trips, and even proponents acknowledge that 25,000 is pushing the absolute limit. I think this raises questions about La Costa Avenue given the current and projected volumes, and I think there is a large reliance on people becoming frustrated with congestion and changing their commuting times of day and/or switching to alternate routes like Calle Barcelona or Olivenhain Road/Leucadia Boulevard.

Traffic calming program procedures and scientific methods

Carlsbad Residential Traffic Management Program

Carlsbad has a Residential Traffic Management Program (TMP) that contains policies and procedures to conduct the types of “traffic calming” changes being proposed. However, La Costa Avenue (LCA) is not eligible, because it is a secondary arterial roadway meant to carry high volumes of traffic--not a residential street. The TMP requires that the street has a posted speed limit of 30 MPH or less (LCA is 45 MPH), an 85th percentile speed greater than 5 MPH over the posted speed limit (LCA's does not exceed the posted speed limit), no more than two travel lanes (LCA has four), and a curb-to-curb width of 40 feet or less (LCA is 64 feet).

Even if it was deemed acceptable to make an exception for La Costa Avenue to be eligible for traffic calming, the TMP has a very specific sequence of events that is not being followed. This includes a requirement that a petition requesting traffic calming be signed by 50%+1 of the residents in the project area of influence, and that 67% of survey respondents approve the project both at the "conceptual plan" stage prior to a trial period, as well as after the trial period. The TMP also has an investigative phase, which includes traffic volume counts, parking assessment, collision analysis, and speed surveys, among other items. Ironically, a highly mutated and abbreviated version of this procedure is planned (and now underway) for the La Costa Avenue traffic calming project with the likely excuse that it would be unwieldy due to the size of the project area of influence.

Scientific methods to ensure feasibility

Regardless of which interim plan is implemented, and regardless of whether a traffic impact study is conducted prior to its implementation, a scientific approach should be used to study the results. The interim plan should have pre-defined performance metrics and a time limit, and, if certain performance goals are not met, a reversion to the old striping plan or conversion to a new plan should be triggered automatically. I think it would be appropriate to follow the relevant procedures in the City’s Residential Traffic Management Program (TMP) in this regard. If an EIR is conducted, this approach should be incorporated. 

It should be noted that the TMP requires a posted speed limit of 30 MPH or less (LCA is 45 MPH), an 85th percentile speed greater than 5 MPH over the posted speed limit (LCA's does not exceed the posted speed limit), no more than two travel lanes (LCA has four), and a curb-to-curb width of 40 feet or less (LCA is 64 feet). Thus, it could be argued that La Costa Avenue should not even be considered for a road diet or other traffic calming under the City’s current policies, as it is a secondary arterial roadway meant to carry high volumes of traffic--not a residential street. Notwithstanding that, certain procedures should be followed. 

Metrics 

The TMP has an investigative phase, which includes traffic volume counts, parking assessment, collision analysis, and speed surveys, among other items. Here are some metrics that should be used for La Costa Avenue: 
  • Transit time analysis (all the way from Rancho Santa Fe Road to El Camino Real) 
  • Traffic counts (mid-block and intersections) on La Costa Avenue, as well as neighboring roads, like Levante Street and Calle Barcelona 
  • Queuing analysis at controlled intersections (number of cars that accumulate at lights and how fast they make it through) 
  • Speed surveys 
  • Collision analysis after implementation, although the results may not be statistically relevant due to low numbers

Methods 


The above metrics should be measured under the following conditions: 
  • Repeat the measurements to achieve statistical relevance 
  • Both before and after implementation of the “interim” plan 
  • At off-peak hours, as well as AM and PM peak hours on the peak day (e.g., Friday) 
Time limit and performance goals 

The TMP defines a specific timeframe of 3-6 months to test “temporary measures,” and it includes public feedback on the changes. Public input should be solicited on satisfaction with the road diet, for example, through a public survey advertised in the standard La Costa Avenue public outreach communications and/or the City newsletter. In addition, a public meeting should be held. If pre-defined performance goals are not met, or the public is not satisfied, another striping change should automatically be triggered at the end of the test period (e.g., 6 months).

California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) likely requires a thorough traffic impact study

The City has vacillated back and forth several times on the need for CEQA review. In the February 8, 2011 painted median and traffic prohibition plan, they likely avoided the review requirement by retaining all four traffic lanes. When they moved to the full road diet plan on 3/22/2011, they cited a CEQA exemption related to "information gathering," which seemed very shaky. Then, at the April 28th, 2011 public workshop and May 2, 2011 Traffic Safety Commission meeting, they had decided that the full road diet would actually require CEQA review. Then, after changing to the partial road diet in late May/early June of 2011, they decided to go with an exemption again, although they did not state which one(s), and they also stated that they were weighing the risks of a liability vs. CEQA lawsuit.

Regardless of the requirements, conducting a thorough impact study is the right thing to do. Beyond that, my interpretation of statutory and case law related to CEQA suggests that a lane elimination plan is a non-exempt project requiring a minimum of an "Initial Study" under CEQA to determine whether the project has a "possible significant effect" on traffic and air quality. The 2008 traffic calming study, which projects congestion levels that are inconsistent with the City's Growth Management Program, suggests that there is at least a possible significant effect on congestion. This may trigger the need for a more extensive Environmental Impact Report (EIR) to satisfy CEQA requirements, including a thorough traffic impact study. There could also be significant impacts on air quality, as carbon monoxide levels could rise, even with average intersection delays of just 10 to 30 seconds per vehicle. This is further bolstered by the requirement that the City's actions remain consistent with the General Plan and Growth Management Program, as described above. It is certainly possible, if not probable, that the City will use "creative" methods to circumvent these rules, but that could be challenged, depending on the circumstances.
  • “A project for restriping” is exempt from CEQA environmental review if it is intended to “relieve traffic congestion…”
  • Expert opinion: Potential to create congestion inconsistent with Growth Management Program (LOS “E” or “F”)
  • When disagreement in expert opinion exists, review must be done
  • Inconsistent with General Plan classification (4 lanes)
  • A “fair argument” can be made that review is required

Public participation required by CEQA 

  • The City must consider views held by members of the public when considering the environmental impacts of a project. I am expressing my views on the road diet here, and many others have included comments in opposition on the public opinion survey and at the public workshops. Notes are being taken by City employees and agents that reflect these comments.
  • References:
    • CEQA §15044: Any person or entity other than a Responsible Agency may submit comments to a Lead Agency concerning any environmental effects of a project being considered by the Lead Agency.
    • CEQA §15064(c): In determining whether an effect will be adverse or beneficial, the Lead Agency shall consider the views held by members of the public in all areas affected as expressed in the whole record before the lead agency…
    • Case law: Informed decision-making and public participation are fundamental purposes of the CEQA process. See Citizens o/Goleta Valley v. Ed. o/Supervisors (1990) 52 Ca1.3d 553; Laurel Heights Improvement Ass'n v. Regents of Univ. of Cal. (1988) 47 Cal.3d 376; No Oil, Inc. v. City of Los Angeles (1974) 13 Ca1.3d 68.

A road diet is a good candidate for an EIR 

  • In response to safety concerns expressed by the La Costa Avenue Safety Group, the City authorized a $100,000 study in April 2007 to determine the feasibility of a road diet. The consulting firm KOA Corporation submitted a Phase I study report entitled “La Costa Avenue Road Diet Arterial Traffic Calming Project” to the City dated September 2008. It projected congestion levels that reach Level of Service “F” at multiple locations using different study methods. There could also be significant impacts on air quality, as carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, etc. levels could rise, even with average delays of just 10 to 30 seconds per vehicle. Potential increased congestion and/or pollution is an indirect physical change to the environment caused by the road diet, defining it as a “project” under CEQA. 
  • One of the exemptions under CEQA (§15282[j]) reads: “A project for restriping streets or highways to relieve traffic congestion as set forth in Section 21080.19 of the Public Resources Code.” So, rather than a blanket exemption for road restriping projects, this exemption includes specific language limiting it to cases involving relief of traffic congestion. This suggests that a restriping project, which, if anything, will increase traffic congestion, should not be exempt from review requirements.
  • References:
    • Case law: A City decision to fund street improvements is a land use decision and a "project" under CEQA, because it is an activity undertaken by a public agency that may cause a direct, or reasonably foreseeable indirect physical change to the environment. See San Lorenzo Valley Community Advocates/or Responsible Educ. v. San Lorenzo Valley Unified Sch. District (2006) 139 Cal.App.4th 1356) 1377.
    • CEQA §15064(e): …[I]f a project would cause overcrowding of a public facility and the overcrowding causes an adverse effect on people, the overcrowding would be regarded as a significant effect.
    • CEQA §15282(j): OTHER STATUTORY EXEMPTIONS…A project for restriping streets or highways to relieve traffic congestion as set forth in Section 21080.19 of the Public Resources Code.

Inconsistency with a General Plan makes it a better candidate for an EIR 

  • Decisions by a city affecting land use and development must be consistent with the city's general plan, and inconsistencies with such a plan, including the circulation system element, make a project subject to environmental review. 
  • The Circulation Element of Carlsbad’s General Plan defines La Costa Avenue as a “Secondary Arterial,” and it defines secondary arterials as having “two traffic lanes in each direction” intended to handle a traffic volume of “10,000 to 20,000 daily trips.” Thus, reduction from two to one travel lane is inconsistent with the road classification of La Costa Avenue in the City’s General Plan. 
  • Level of service (LOS) is rated on a grade scale from A to F, and Carlsbad’s Growth Management Program sets a minimum of grade “C” during off-peak hours and grade “D” during peak hours. The KOA Corporation report showed that, using San Diego Traffic Engineers' Council (SANTEC) methodologies (the standard in our area), the entire western segment with residential driveways (from Romeria west) is projected to degrade from “C” to “F” with the road diet, and the entire length of the road diet will degrade to “F” in the future with La Costa Town Square and other development. KOA also tried other traffic projection methods, which suggest somewhat lower negative impacts, but they still concluded that the road diet is not recommended due to the impacts on LOS.
  • References:
    • California Code §65300 et seq.; case law: To carry out its purposes, the Planning and Zoning Law requires that any decision by a city affecting land use and development must be consistent with the city's general plan. Friends a/Lagoon Valley v. City a/Vacaville (2007) 154 Cal.AppAth 807, 815.
    • CEQA Appendix G is a checklist with sample questions to determine whether an EIR should be conducted. Question 16 reads as follows: "TRANSPORTATION/TRAFFIC…Would the project…[c]onflict with an applicable plan, ordinance or policy establishing measures of effectiveness for the performance of the circulation system, taking into account all modes of transportation including mass transit and non-motorized travel and relevant components of the circulation system, including but not limited to intersections, streets, highways and freeways, pedestrian and bicycle paths, and mass transit?"

An existing expert opinion recommending against the road diet makes it an even better candidate for an EIR 

  • If there is a “fair argument” that a project may have a significant effect on the environment, an EIR must be prepared, even if there is other substantial evidence that the project will not have a significant effect. And, in marginal cases, if there is disagreement among expert opinion supported by facts over the significance of an effect on the environment, an EIR must be prepared. In their City-sponsored 2008 study, KOA Corporation concluded: “…[I]t is not recommended to implement a road diet for [La Costa Avenue]" due to the projected environmental impact (congestion). Combined with other information I have presented here, I feel a fair argument has been made that an EIR is warranted.
  • References:
    • CEQA §15064(f)(1): …[I]f a lead agency is presented with a fair argument that a project may have a significant effect on the environment, the lead agency shall prepare an EIR even though it may also be presented with other substantial evidence that the project will not have a significant effect...
    • CEQA §15064(g): [I]n marginal cases where it is not clear whether there is substantial evidence that a project may have a significant effect on the environment, the lead agency shall be guided by the following principle: If there is disagreement among expert opinion supported by facts over the significance of an effect on the environment, the Lead Agency shall treat the effect as significant and shall prepare an EIR.

Probable future traffic calming projects that will be contingent upon, and likely directly follow, the road diet further bolster the case for an EIR 

  • When “probable future projects” will build upon a more immediate project, the “cumulative effect” of the combined projects must be considered in an EIR. The City is in the process of expending $212,000 in planning, and $1.03 million has been reserved for further traffic calming. This makes further traffic calming a “probable future project.” It is also probable that the City’s “interim” road diet will remain in effect until the future traffic calming project begins, which could take one or two (or more) years, and the future project depends on the road diet as a precursor project. Therefore, any assessment of whether the immediate road diet requires an EIR should include the cumulative project, which, without a doubt, does require an EIR. 
  • The road diet should also be considered in the context of the La Costa Town Square project. The EIR conducted for that development was done assuming La Costa Avenue’s current configuration. The western segment in question currently has a volume of approximately 18,000 average daily trips, and the La Costa Town Square EIR projected that to increase by more the 2,500, creating traffic volumes over 20,500 (not to mention additional trips from other ongoing developments).
  • Reference:
    • CEQA §15064(h)(1): When assessing whether a cumulative effect requires an EIR, the lead agency shall consider whether the cumulative impact is significant and whether the effects of the project are cumulatively considerable. An EIR must be prepared if the cumulative impact may be significant and the project’s incremental effect, though individually limited, is cumulatively considerable. “Cumulatively considerable” means that the incremental effects of an individual project are significant when viewed in connection with the effects of past projects, the effects of other current projects, and the effects of probable future projects.

Vista Way road diet/traffic calming

A portion of Vista Way in Oceanside is a western extension of CA-78 after it terminates at I-5. Although the street is classified as a secondary arterial that could handle 25,000 average daily trips, it is lined with homes with driveways. Around 19,000 vehicles use the street between Pacific Coast Highway and the I-5/CA-78 intersection. Based on safety complaints from residents regarding speeds and difficulty in accessing the road from their driveways, Oceanside implemented a road diet (four to two travel lanes), and they installed additional traffic signs and electronic speed indicators, as well as additional traffic-calming devices. This situation shares several characteristics with La Costa Avenue. 

A few years after implementation of the road diet, the residents now say that the measures have helped slow the traffic, but not the volume. Perceived volumes have continued to increase, leading to long lines at traffic lights, increased noise, and more difficulties with driveway access. The residents are now suggesting that a cul-de-sac be installed near the I-5/CA-78 intersection to redirect traffic to neighboring streets in order to stop their street from being used for freeway access. The City is going to explore other traffic calming measures.

Map

The blue pins in the map below designate the approximate area of La Costa Avenue proposed for traffic calming. The orange areas represent the driveways that are the largest problem areas. They are the ones in the portion of the roadway that is currently four lanes and are almost exclusively on the north side of the road. The red area is the location of most of the residents who have expressed safety concerns to the City in the past. The red pin is the location of the motorcycle accident that is creating the liability concern.

La Costa Avenue Improvement Project Area



The re-striping plan, in its last reported form, is being called temporary ("interim"). It would convert the outside westbound travel lane into a bike lane between approximately Romeria Street and Fairway Lane (partial road diet). Black paint would be used to cover up some of the current lines, and new lines will be painted over. Most other aspects of the road will remain the same, including the shared center left-turn lane. Some right-hand turn lanes may be created in the new bike lanes at intersections, as well. The following figure shows a full road diet, where the outermost lanes on both the westbound and eastbound sides have been converted to bike lanes.
            

Links to City information, news articles, and opinion articles

City of Carlsbad's "La Costa Avenue Improvement Plan" site

Join my email list
Please email me at slinke.clc@gmail.com if you wish to be placed on an email list for periodic updates. Your email address and any other personal information you provide will be kept confidential and not be used for any other purpose, and you may request removal from the list at any time. No matter what your viewpoint on the proposed projects, you are welcome to join.

Contents

  1. 1 Latest news
  2. 2 Overview/older news
  3. 3 Details
    1. 3.1 Accident rate has not increased over last 25 years and is significantly below state averages
    2. 3.2 Speed surveys suggest that speed limit is largely being observed
    3. 3.3 Public input on travel lane elimination plans has been discouraged
    4. 3.4 Opinion survey indicates public opposition to travel lane elimination
    5. 3.5 Travel lane elimination does not directly address liability issues
    6. 3.6 Alternative plans could address issues as well or better than City plan without elimination of travel lanes
      1. 3.6.1 Painted median/no parking alternative
      2. 3.6.2 Narrowed/shifted median alternative
    7. 3.7 2008 traffic calming study recommended against travel lane elimination
      1. 3.7.1 Projected congestion exceeds limits in Carlsbad's Growth Management Program
    8. 3.8 Troubling "re-evaluations" of the 2008 traffic calming study
      1. 3.8.1 Inconsistent June 2008 and September 2008 versions of traffic study
      2. 3.8.2 March 2011 data re-evaluation for City Council by City staff
      3. 3.8.3 June 2011 data re-evaluation for Traffic Safety Commission and City Council by KOA
      4. 3.8.4 Traffic impact study methods, including the unvalidated Carlsbad method
      5. 3.8.5 Carlsbad's annual Traffic Monitoring Program
    9. 3.9 Travel lane elimination is inconsistent with Carlsbad's General Plan
    10. 3.10 High current and projected traffic volumes already push secondary arterial limits
    11. 3.11 Traffic calming program procedures and scientific methods
      1. 3.11.1 Carlsbad Residential Traffic Management Program
      2. 3.11.2 Scientific methods to ensure feasibility
    12. 3.12 California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) likely requires a thorough traffic impact study
      1. 3.12.1 Public participation required by CEQA 
      2. 3.12.2 A road diet is a good candidate for an EIR 
      3. 3.12.3 Inconsistency with a General Plan makes it a better candidate for an EIR 
      4. 3.12.4 An existing expert opinion recommending against the road diet makes it an even better candidate for an EIR 
      5. 3.12.5 Probable future traffic calming projects that will be contingent upon, and likely directly follow, the road diet further bolster the case for an EIR 
    13. 3.13 Vista Way road diet/traffic calming
  4. 4 Map
  5. 5 Links to City information, news articles, and opinion articles