Caltrans on Tuesday said it will begin work this summer on the initial report that lays the foundation for improvements for the Dye Road/Highway 67 intersection in Ramona.
Improvements were anticipated to begin in 2035, based on government priorities and available funding. However, now work is expected to begin in July to estimate the cost of improvements and assess any potential environmental concerns. This work is expected to take a year and will include public input, according to the deputy director of Traffic Operations for Caltrans District 11, Joe Hull.
Congestion at the intersection at the western entrance to town has been under discussion for about 25 years, according to the chairman of Ramona Community Planning Group, Jim Piva. Traffic backs up during commuter rush hours and it came to a standstill during the 2007 Witch Creek Fire evacuation.
Hull told Patch, "The primary reason we're doing this is that the traffic demand is 20 percent higher than the capacity of the intersection. This project is being done to improve mobility and to relieve congestion."
The 2007 fire evacuation problem led to work on improvements being given more of a priority, Piva said.
"The contacts we made in disaster preparedness and planning discussions after the Witch Creek Fire helped a great deal in moving this forward. The issue came up when we started discussing the proposed evacuation route through the sprayfields on Highland Valley Road owned by Ramona's water district."
Dye Road becomes Highland Valley Road on the northern side of Highway 67.
Over the past six months, the planning group's representatives have given presentations to County Supervisor Dianne Jacob and staff of Caltrans and the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG) to illustrate the congestion. Piva, along with group secretary Kristi Mansolf and another member who is a traffic engineer, Carl Hickman, gave the presentations.
Funding for this first stage in the process of improvements will come from Caltrans District 11 discretionary funds within the State Highway Operation and Protection Program, Hull said. It is expected to cost $500,000 to $800,000 to do the project report and the final engineering and design report.
The project report will be done in accordance with both state and federal environmental laws, California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). Most of the work will likely be done by Cal Trans staff but consultants may be retained to do certain portions, Hull said.
At this point, no money has been identified to do the construction of the road improvements, he said.
Piva was excited when he talked to Patch about the funding.
"This project has just taken a big leap forward," he said. "Joe Hull deserves a lot of credit for this."
Hull said obtaining the funding and committing to the work has been a team effort.
"There was a meeting in the past month in which we discussed who might take on certain parts of this project," he said.
Hull said he has been to Ramona to personally witness the congestion himself.
"We just felt, 'Let's just get this going.'"