Viewpoint: Is Espola Road expense really necessary?

By Bob Emery

I have driven Espola Road in both directions, several times a day, nearly every day since 1969. I have driven Espola when there was 10 minutes between cars and when, sometimes, it takes 10 minutes waiting for a space to open between cars.

Traffic has increased tremendously over the past 44 years but, oddly enough, congestion has not. With the exception of about 45 minutes in the morning, when several thousand people and hundreds of vehicles all try to get to Poway High School at the same time, and about 15 minutes around 2:30 when school lets out, Espola Road appears to flow smoothly with little interruption and no major history of safety issues. This being the case, after spending nearly $2 million, why is the City of Poway continuing to study the project, especially since it will take another $10-plus million to construct the project?

In 2002-03, the city looked at widening Espola Road to four lanes between Twin Peaks Road and Titan Way (Poway High). It was determined by the City Council that the need really wasn’t there to pursue the multi-million dollar project at that time. The San Diego Association of Governments, (SANDAG), the source of most of the funding, apparently agreed because the Espola Road project came in behind several other projects in other jurisdictions with higher priorities.

Why are we pursuing an expensive project that is greater in scale than what is really needed? In a nutshell, the project calls for the widening of Espola to three lanes between Twin Peaks and Titan Way, install sidewalks and landscaping on both sides of the road, install a traffic signal at Durhullen/Golden Sunset, stripe bike lanes north and south, build sound walls on both sides of Espola north of Jerome Drive, and improve drainage south of Twin Peaks Road.

Now, take these facts into account: Espola Road is already three lanes between Twin Peaks and Titan Way with the exception of about 200 yards north of Del Poniente to Willow Ranch Road. There are already bike lanes in both directions. Are sidewalks and landscaping necessary in both directions? Why not create a footpath/sidewalk on the west side only? There is a sidewalk on only one side of Espola from the Poway High parking lot all the way north to Old Coach Road. Espola Road is one of the most scenic drives around.

Do we really want up to 11-foot sound walls replacing vegetation?

Where is the demonstrated need for such a massive undertaking when a lesser project could suffice at less cost? The EIR (Environmental Impact Report) only shows a modest 10 percent growth in traffic in this area by the horizon year of 2030, 17 years from now.

In summary, I submit that the Espola Road project needs to be scaled back considerably. Yes, drainage improvements are needed near Ezra Lane. Yes, pedestrian access in one direction could be improved. Perhaps a traffic signal at Durhullen/Golden Sunset might work but study is needed. The California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) states that the “environmentally superior alternative” should be chosen after an EIR. The EIR concludes that the project would “result in significant, unavoidable adverse impacts to land use, visual aesthetics and noise.” How can a project with such admitted dire consequences be considered “environmentally superior”?

Emery is a former Poway City Council member and a regular columnist.

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Posted by Staff on Apr 17 2013. Filed under Editorial, Opinion. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

6 Comments for “Viewpoint: Is Espola Road expense really necessary?”

  1. Igor

    I agree. Spend the money on something more worthwhile. Beside school hours, it's not that busy of a road.

  2. Babs

    One time years ago while driving at night near Newark airport it was amazing to see sixteen lanes of freeway with a few cars traveling in either direction. It prompted the question of, "Why so much space allocated to this roadway?" The answer offered is the same that can be stated for Interstate 15's eighteen lanes: "You should be here during rush hour!"

    That thinking drives way too much road development, i.e. “Let’s build for the time when the road is used most, instead of looking at what is cost effective and or what is the root cause.”

    Overbuilding for twice a day, five days a week use is wasteful. Alternative approaches might include staggered start/end times, reversible lanes, and conservative planning and development as Bob offers.

  3. mike s

    it was busy there when i graduated in ’75, but only when school was involved! i think maybe, the city council should spend more money on ‘light rail’ or time travel, because to them its ‘only money’!

    i fought the city council (and won) and the only one with half a brain was Bob Emery and he is right again.

    What they should do is remove all heavy trucks from espola and poway grade and BINGO, no more 2 million dollar study!

  4. Poway Resident

    Goodbye City in the Country … Poway losing its Charm

    With the insanity of the recent PUSD bond measure still fresh in our memories, we’ve come to learn that “when logic and reason can't explain a situation, you can almost bet that money and corruption is somewhere in close proximity”. I can only guess that there’s plenty of both going around yet again with the proposal to widen Espola Road.

    I have yet to hear a single valid reason as to why Poway residents should incur the expense that will be incurred on this proposed project. On the surface, it seems to only benefit a fraction of the City's residents who need to endure a somewhat sluggish commute from Twin Peaks to Poway High in the morning … the rest of the day and outside of the School year, that road is dead. On a bad day, that commute distance will take you 7 or 8 minutes to complete. How many minutes does the City guarantee that time will be reduced by? I haven’t seen such a figure listed anywhere

    More likely, there's money changing hands between business and City Council who want to see Espola become a Highway 15 bypass for large truck convoys at all hours of the day and night (I’ll bet WalMart has greased the skids on this one).

    Incredibly insane thinking when you consider that the Espola corridor and the surrounding area is a community of close-knit schools which children abound everywhere you look … Twin Peaks Middle school, Poway High, Montessori etc. If anything should be considered for this area, it would be to institute traffic calming measures. Should harm and injury to our children be the direct result of this project, it will be on the hands of the current Poway City Council and Mayor.

  5. Dale

    Leave Espola alone. It's only busy once in the morning, and once in the afternoon.

  6. Tom Yarnall

    Poway Resident, I haven't heard the conspiracy theory used since John Mullin first ran for and won a Council seat. How has that turned out?
    Your message seems to be based on emotion without facts.. Why not go to the EIR report where the City engineers have responded to many of the concerns you have in an objective manner.

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