By Allison Jarrell
Hundreds of residents living in several senior communities will soon be able to cross the street with a new traffic signal at the intersection of Rancho Viejo Road and Paseo Espada, but some residents remain concerned that consistently dangerous driving habits will make the crossing perilous for pedestrians.
The San Juan Capistrano City Council approved the crosswalk unanimously Tuesday night. The project will include a marked crosswalk, a traffic signal and new ramps that comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Different versions of a proposed crosswalk—one with an all-way stop and later a flashing beacon—were previously denied twice by the council in 2005 and again in 2011. Councilman Sam Allevato, who was on the council at that time, said engineering studies showed that a crosswalk was hazardous due to factors like lack of street lighting, speedy driving habits of area commuters and the curvature of Rancho Viejo Road. Allevato added that funding for the project didn’t exist at the time.
City Engineer George Alvarez reported Tuesday that between 21 and 24 people cross the intersection per hour, and the junction sees between 400 and 500 cars during peak hours. Alvarez said there has been one accident within the last three years, which did not involve a pedestrian.
During public comment, Barbara Delgado, resident coordinator at Villa Paloma Senior Apartments on Paseo Espada, said while their residents are grateful for the proposed crosswalk, they would have been happy with two painted lines across the street rather than a $350,000 traffic signal.
“We asked for this approximately 10 years ago, and at that time, we were talking about a can of paint and two lines,” Delgado said. “We just want to get across the street.”
The estimated cost for a traffic signal at the intersection of Rancho Viejo Road and Paseo Espada is $350,000. Staff reported to the council that the project’s funding will come from the Capistrano Circulation Fee Program, which currently has $4.96 million available from developer fees. Staff said CCFP funds were earmarked for the project.
The CCFP is also a source of funding for the city’s seven-year Capital Improvement Program, which coordinates maintenance and development of San Juan’s infrastructure. Some residents, including former Councilman Larry Kramer, questioned whether those funds should be used for infrastructure improvements such as repairing damaged roads.
“It is a waste of taxpayer’s money to spend $350,000 to allow pedestrians to cross at that intersection when so many important street repairs are delayed due to lack of funding,” Kramer wrote in a letter to the council.