Caltrans staff met with the Ramona Community Planning Group on Dec. 5 to answer questions about a project under consideration that might add median barriers to Route 67. This was a chance for RCPG planners to ask Caltrans issues that had come up in discussing the Route 67 Median Barrier project at previous meetings, such as affects on evacuation routes, and studies quoted saying barriers on highways increase accident numbers.
Richard Estrada, project manager for Caltrans, was asked at the meeting what is the "exact goal of this project?"
"To reduce the number and severity of all collisions within this footprint," Estrada said. "We don't want to put something in that would cause future collisions."
Planner Dennis Spring said studies show that barriers on highways increase the accident rate by 30 percent, but decreases the number of head on collisions, which are more deadly.
Estrada said nothing with this project is set in stone, Caltrans is in the processing of determining what is worthwhile.
There are five project alternatives being considered, including a concrete median barrier, a high tension cable median barrier, a metal median barrier, a median buffer and no changes.
Estrada said they are very aware of fire and evacuation dangers in this area and working with local groups during planning stages with this in mind.
"This is a unique corridor because of the number of side driveways and streets along this kind of road," he said.
The median buffer option would take away a lane, which Estrada said would impact the traffic flow on SR-67. This option would include a rumble strip, so drivers would be aware if they drift.
"With less lanes my worry is that the whole corridor would be shutdown more often due to accidents," said Spring.
Estrada said the concrete barrier option would change water flow across the road, requiring new drainage, a lot of construction, lane closures, and some driveways would need to be closed, which would be costly.
The cable option is easier to install, repair and gives increased visibility. Planner Jim Cooper said the only negative is for motorcyclists, for whom the cable would be like hitting a knife's edge.
Another part of the project would likely include adding a newly developed high friction surface treatment to the road that would allow vehicles to brake more quickly.
Estrada added that they are not allowed to add capacity (more lanes) with this project because funds are coming from pot of money set aside for safety. The ultimate goal for Route 67 is a four-lane highway, which, according to the SANDAG Transportation Plan, may happen by 2050.
Estrada said Caltrans will come back to the community in the spring with a draft project report for public review, and will be looking for formal comments at that time.