By JORDI FAXON
Carmel Valley Road is expected to go through many renovations in the coming years in regards to decreasing traffic and increasing safety, developments that are being managed by the Carmel Valley Road Advisory Committee.
In 2007, the committee created the Carmel Valley Traffic Improvement Program to fix many glaring issues Carmel Valley Road has faced and is still facing, like the high number of car crashes on the Laureles Grade intersection with Carmel Valley Road. The committee is currently planning the building of a roundabout on this intersection to hopefully make the road safer.
The Laureles Grade and Carmel Valley Road intersection is infamous in the minds of many Carmel Valley residents. To some members of the community, like CHS junior Dante Garderet, this intersection is the most dangerous part of his daily commute.
“It’s stressful because when you’re turning right onto the road [from the grade], you can barely see the oncoming traffic, and when you’re turning left onto Carmel Valley Road, the people turning right block your vision,” Garderet says. “It’s almost like a highway, that speed that they’re coming on the corner, but there are no lights or anything like that.”
The Transportation Agency of Monterey County, a state-sponsored organization in charge of organizing and financing transportation projects in Monterey County, released a Regional Roundabout Study in 2016, assessing 24 intersections notorious for their car collisions, delays and emissions on the peninsula, including the Laureles Grade and Carmel Valley Road intersection, further determining which intersections would benefit most—in terms of both capital and lives saved—from a roundabout. Of the 24, the Laureles Grade intersection would return the third greatest benefit from a roundabout.
Another project for this committee is an upgrade on the intersection at September Ranch, the stable across the street from Brookdale Drive and Canada Way. As stated in the Oct. 15 committee meeting, the renovation on the Brookdale Drive intersection isn’t due to an urgent safety hazard, like the Laureles Grade intersection, but due to the construction for the housing developments on September Ranch. As was stated in the Oct. 15 committee meeting, the intersection improvements at September Ranch need to coincide with the construction of the housing community, which will begin this summer at the latest. The Morgan family, in charge of the housing development on September Ranch, is having a developer plan for a signal at the intersection with Carmel Valley Road, but the committee is pushing for the developer to put a roundabout at the intersection instead.
“For September Ranch, the original developer agreement called for them to install a stoplight there and create an intersection,” says informed Carmel Valley resident Robert Ellis. “But nobody on the [committee] wants stoplights on Carmel Valley Road, they wanted a roundabout. So now they’re negotiating with the developer to pay a little bit more or have the county kick in some money and maybe put in a roundabout over and above the cost of stoplights.”
At the last committee meeting on Dec. 20, it was noted that the factors used in deciding whether the construction of a roundabout is ultimately the best option for September Ranch are numerous. Benefits to installing a roundabout are mainly that safety would increase, traffic would calm, and the road would stay more rural, but there are advantages to the signal as well, like a decrease the construction cost and an increase in the road’s efficiency and level of service, a road’s number of obstructions and blockages.
The level of service could be ameliorated by increasing the diameter of the roundabout, allowing cars to drive faster through the roundabout, yet the issue of land ownership still arises. In the case of September Ranch, the roundabout would push further into September Ranch’s property or some residential property on Brookdale drive.
Cost is another factor. Developers have already agreed with the committee to construct a signal, and the cost of the construction has already been agreed upon, but the roundabout would cost about $500,000 more, according to the committee meeting on Oct. 5.
To both the committee and the general public, the road’s rural atmosphere is important, as highlighted in the first version of the Carmel Valley Master Plan from 1986, which claims that the first goal of Carmel Valley Road construction is to preserve the rural character of Carmel Valley. On this principle, the committee is pushing against a signal on the road east of the intersection on Rancho San Carlos Road.
According to Ellis, the process of getting this roundabout is essentially three-fold: There’s planning, involving negotiations between the developer and the committee regarding all of the different conceptual alternatives of how to relieve traffic; design, which will be executed by an engineering firm; and construction.
The planning stage is complete, and at the next committee meeting on Feb. 19 at 10 a.m., the committee will choose the engineering firm that will be in charge of designing the roundabout.