By Ruarri Serpa.
A city choosing to forgo a new crosswalk might not normally raise eyebrows, but in Oceanside, it signals the city’s slowing commitment to a planned road-diet along Coast Highway.
In January of last year, the city implemented a pilot study of a road diet – taking road space from cars and using it instead for pedestrians, bikes or landscaping – on a half-mile section of Coast Highway between downtown and South Oceanside. That included reducing the road from four lanes to two, and installing buffered bike lanes and a lighted crosswalk. Last month, the City Council put the crosswalk on hold in case it decides not to narrow the road in that section – or anywhere else.
When the city began the environmental reviews in July, the plan was for a road diet throughout the length of Coast Highway. In November, however, a memo sent to the City Council said the city was also studying an alternative that left South Oceanside, including the pilot study area, out of the plan.
So, where did that come from?
Program managers for the study didn’t respond to my emails, and the only indication was in an email from the city’s traffic engineer to one of the road diet’s supporters, in which he said staff was directed to include that option in the environmental impact report.
The city has received significant pushback from business owners in South Oceanside, who are afraid a road diet will hurt access to their businesses. At the same time, supporters of the road diet say the pilot study area is “non-negotiable,” because their kids have to walk or ride bikes through that section to get to the elementary school in South Oceanside.
In 2015, a boy was killed while riding his bike to school, by a truck that was pulling out of a driveway in that section of road, before the pilot study. Ever since, residents have been arguing online and at City Council meetings, in less-than-tasteful fashion, whether it was his fault for choosing to ride on the sidewalk, or whether the infrastructure was so poor that he felt it was safer riding on the sidewalk.
The environmental reviews should have been completed by now, but it looks like they won’t be ready until summer or fall, and it’s unclear how much of that is due to the new project alternative.
Last year, VOSD’s Scott Lewis and Andrew Keatts gave a provisional “Hero of the Week” on the podcast to the city for implementing the pilot study.
“Message to Oceanside: If you reverse course and undo this road-diet at a later date, we will give you a goat,” Keatts said.
Gentleman, prepare the goat.