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Trying times in Talmadge

Posted: July 17th, 2015 | Feature, Kensington, Talmadge, Top Story | No Comments

By Ken Williams | Editor

The Talmadge community is up in arms after city staff reintroduced left turns for 47th Street motorists at the busy intersection of Monroe Avenue between Aldine Drive and Euclid Avenue.

The left turn lanes suddenly appeared on the morning of July 6, prompting an urgent discussion at the July 8 meeting of the Kensington Talmadge Planning Group (KTPG).

Members of the advisory group, chaired by David Moty, spoke at length about their frustration that city officials approved the left turns without consulting the community.

KTPG members repeatedly stressed safety issues posed by the left turns, a point also emphasized by several speakers from the audience. One man said he was so frustrated that he was going to point his home security camera at the intersection to videotape traffic accidents that he believes will follow because of the city’s decision to allow left turns.

“I don’t want to wait until somebody is killed before something is done,” said Elvia Sandoval, a member of the planning group.

The highlighted circle shows the intersection of 47th Street and Monroe Avenue, where the city recently allowed left turns from 47th Street. Critics say drivers have poor sight lines because of dips, rises and curves on Monroe Avenue, making the left turns a safety concern. The nearby merger of Aldine Drive onto Monroe Avenue is also a big concern. (Courtesy of Google Maps)

The highlighted circle shows the intersection of 47th Street and Monroe Avenue, where the city recently allowed left turns from 47th Street. Critics say drivers have poor sight lines because of dips, rises and curves on Monroe Avenue, making the left turns a safety concern. The nearby merger of Aldine Drive onto Monroe Avenue is also a big concern. (Courtesy of Google Maps)

Ralph Dimarucut, a senior staff member with District 9 Councilmember Marti Emerald, who is her liaison to the Talmadge community and at the meeting, told the planning group that the councilmember only learned about the left turns on July 6 as the work was being completed.

Sandoval told Dimarucut that “all the work we did on that has been undone,” referring to years of study and public discussion about a busy intersection prone to accidents and near-misses. “This is very upsetting for us on the board.”

After almost an hour of discussion, the planning group voted 14-0 in favor of sending a letter to Mayor Kevin Faulconer seeking to remove the left turns at that intersection.

Moty, the group’s chair, sent an in-depth letter to the mayor dated July 13, titled “Request Removal of Reintroduced Left Turns at 47th Street & Monroe Avenue.”

The letter makes three recommendations:

“1) Ensure that this action by the City does not interfere with the design work being done by SANDAG [San Diego Association of Governments] for the regional North Park/Mid-City bicycle route, which has the active cooperation of the planning group, local MAD [Maintenance Assessment District], and nearby residents;

“2) Request an explanation why this change to SANDAG’s design was made without input;

“3) Request removal of the reintroduced left turns, and a return to the previous signage.”

Moty explained to Uptown News that the Talmadge community has enthusiastically endorsed SANDAG’s proposed North Park/Mid-City bike plan, which would include dedicated bicycle lanes along Monroe Avenue.

“If this reintroduction of left turns is permanent, it will terminate the Monroe Avenue section of the Meade-Monroe segment of the North Park/Mid-City bicycle routes,” Moty said. “I see no feasible way for the bicycle path to co-exist with left turns at this location. The letter [to the mayor] explains more.”

To read the full letter, go to tinyurl.com/q8ae6lc.

The planning group also wants to know why the city authorized the left turns without apparently consulting them or SANDAG.

This stretch of Monroe Avenue is curvy, starting from Euclid Avenue to the east, to the intersection with 47th Street, and then westward to where the avenue splits: Drivers can continue on Monroe by bearing to the left or turn onto Aldine Drive by bearing to the right.

The layout of these various streets, with its dips and rises, causes sight-line issues for drivers on 47th Street as well as motorists at the merger of Monroe and Aldine. Additionally, the rising and setting sun is a major factor impacting motorists since Monroe runs east to west. All three streets provide access to landlocked Talmadge and get way more traffic than they were originally designed for.

“Aldine Drive is a massively complex system of long-term poor planning extending out far and wide,” Moty told Uptown News. “As I said in an email to the community after our Jan. 9, 2013 planning group meeting, ‘The problems aren’t strictly an issue of traffic volume, they really are an issue of poor design exacerbated by volume, and left uncorrected for decades.’ [tinyurl.com/p5p7dly]

“In March 2013, the all-way stops went in, and in May 2013 they were taken out. Subsequent to the removal of the all-way stop signs, the Fire Department relented on their opposition to the speed bumps on Aldine Drive, and later, I don’t recall exactly when, the right turn only was installed at 47th and Monroe. After that, accidents declined markedly,” Moty said. “Now that the accidents have declined, the response from the city appears to be to dial up what is allowed at 47th and Monroe as far as they can take it, but it can only be a temporary change unless the city doesn’t really support SANDAG’s early action bicycle plan.”

The KTPG for years has pressed for traffic-calming solutions to this particular area, Moty said.

“There is documentation regarding community activism and Aldine Drive going back to the early 1990s. It is always contentious. We had reached what we thought was a reasonably safe and controlled situation with the installation of the speed bumps and the right turn only, though drivers continued to make illegal left turns after the restriction was put in place. Because of that, we were discussing a raised diverter at 47th and Monroe, but the bicycle plan design mooted that point,” Moty said.

“In between the January 2011 meeting and March 2013, there were a series of measures including lane-separating pylons, diverter pylons from behind Hoover, restricted turns at Monroe and Aldine from the direction of behind Hoover, and striping and restriping of lanes trying to get something that worked,” Moty continued. “All the while, many community members kept suggesting speed bumps while the Fire Department kept vetoing it. Finally the three-way stop sign went in, it was a fiasco, and the Fire Department relented on the speed humps. As painful as the three-way stop sign was, it was probably a necessary precursor to the Fire Department removing its objections.”

But even that decision resulted in another change for motorists.

“The introduction of speed humps here necessitated the removal of speed humps on 47th Street that had been installed because the residents had complained about speeding. The bicycle path design will put a final end to speeding on 47th Street, but I guess the 47th Street residents want their left turns more than they want an end to speeding,” Moty told Uptown News.

KTPG’s letter to the mayor concludes with this plea:

“We believe this staff-directed change was caused by a misunderstanding of the conditions on the ground. If the city intends to participate in SANDAG’s North Park/Mid-City bike routes, this recent alteration can exist for only a short time, while leaving the new signs in place can only send a message to SANDAG that the city is not invested in the work SANDAG is doing. SANDAG staff are faced with challenges enough elsewhere, we should not create challenges for them here where overall community support is strong. The KTPG does not believe this is the city’s intent, and hopes the city will give its full support to SANDAG’s plan and remove any roadblocks to its implementation. Let’s make this segment the earliest part of SANDAG’s Early Action Plan.”

Ken Williams is editor of Uptown News and Mission Valley News and can be reached at ken@sdcnn.com or at 619-961-1952.

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