When traffic backs up on Interstate 15, usually during the afternoon rush hour, more and more commuters are opting to detour through Rainbow, much to the dismay of the residents there.
Many of the 1,800 residents of Rainbow are affected by the increasing number of cars traveling through their small community from 3:30 to 6:30 p.m. during the week. They moved here for peace and quiet. The streets were not planned to handle so many cars.
The problem is more than just the noise. According to residents, many drivers ignore stop signs, drive too fast and show little regard for others’ safety, nearly causing accidents and leaving them frustrated.
Just as they have responded to threats to their community in the past, (the proposed Liberty Quarry to the northwest and the noise of the Pala Raceway to the south), the residents of Rainbow are coming together to battle the stream of cars passing through their valley and disrupting their lives.
Since the Rainbow Community Planning Group can only advise the county on planning and land use policies, the residents were told that to get the county to take action, they themselves would need to act.
Four residents then contacted Supervisor Bill Horn’s office with their concerns. All four were directed to San Diego County’s Department of Public Works (DPW). According to Horn’s spokeswoman, Anita Lightfoot, DPW reached out to Caltrans, which responded that additional funding is needed to widen I-15.
Lightfoot confirmed that DPW staff did call and speak to all four residents and followed up on their conversations through email. DPW also called and emailed CHP to request increased monitoring of roads in Rainbow and will follow-up on the request.
After Jonnie Fox Flanagan contacted DPW, field agent Ernest Bartley and his supervisor met with her and her husband, Keith Flanagan and Maile Traner (three of the four residents) July 17. Jonnie Flanagan said, “we took them to all the major congestion and/or danger spots as well as asked them to take Rice Canyon back to their office.”
Those major congestion areas are at the four-way stop at the intersection of 5th Street and Rainbow Valley Boulevard, Camino Rainbow at Rainbow Valley Boulevard (where the boulevard curves at the old gas station), and Rainbow Heights Road at Rice Canyon.
When traffic is slow on I-15, commuters use two shortcuts through Rainbow. Some drivers exit the freeway and head east on SR 76, then take Rice
Canyon Road north. Although the road has a 55-mph speed limit, it is two narrow lanes with at least one hairpin turn (aka “Dead Man’s Curve”) and no guard rails. One resident said that while two people have died in accidents there, the county said there aren’t enough deaths for them to do anything about the road.
Once a yield sign, there is now a stop sign on Rice Canyon at Rainbow Heights Road. In the past, most traffic was headed up the heights from Rice Canyon. With many commuters using Rice Canyon Road now, many residents have reported that not all drivers stop there, which endangers anyone turning onto or from Rainbow Heights Road.
DPW recently striped the centerline through from southbound Rice Canyon Road to Rainbow Heights Road and plans to trim vegetation on the southeast corner of the intersection that limits sight distance. DPW will also be collecting counts to determine if it can recommend an all-way stop at this location.
The north end of Rice Canyon Road leads to 8th Street which takes commuters west to a four-way stop at Camino Rainbow. After turning north, drivers must yield to oncoming traffic on Rainbow Valley Boulevard to get onto that road. Southbound residents on the boulevard who want to cross that oncoming traffic to get to Camino Rainbow must be very careful as many of those oncoming cars travel faster than the 45-mph speed limit.
Other drivers bypass I-15 by taking Old Highway 395 north through Rainbow. Because of this, the intersection of Old Highway 395, Rainbow Glen Road, and Rainbow Valley Road is also a concern as the north/south traffic volume on 395 during peak hours does not have any gaps and motorists entering from Rainbow Glen Road or Rainbow Valley Road have to navigate heavy oncoming traffic.
Residents said there have been recent collisions in this intersection. DPW said there may not be enough room to stripe in refuge and/or acceleration lanes at this location and sight distance did not appear to be a factor here either. Since the residents acknowledge that the problem with limited gaps is only during rush hours, DPW does not recommend any action at this time.
If 395 starts backing up, the commuters move over to Rainbow Valley Boulevard. This is another reason why traffic backs up at the four-way stop at 5th Street and the constant stream of cars makes it difficult for residents to get home.
The traffic concerns also involve the presence of Vallecitos Elementary School and the Rainbow Fire Station on opposite corners of the 5th Street and Rainbow Valley Boulevard intersection. Evening classes are conducted for residents at the school and North County Fire Protection District’s Rainbow station handles the community’s emergencies besides those on the highway.
A group of seven residents gathered at different locations in Rainbow to spread “awareness” of their plight July 17 from 4 to 6 p.m. Some of them talked to commuters at stop signs while others waved printed signs reminding the drivers that they are traveling through residential neighborhoods – not through business districts like other detours do farther south in Rancho Bernardo and Poway.
One of the demonstrators was Michele Sheehan who lives at that main intersection. She has contacted Caltrans several times with her concerns. She also contacted Channel 8, which sent out a camera crew to interview her July 19.
Sheehan said, “I have requested extra patrols from CHP, started conversations to gather opinions on social media, contacted news channels, and ordered signs for residents in the Rainbow area. My hope is to bring light to our situation and have it lead to some possible solutions or conversations before it gets any worse.”
Sheehan herself commutes to Escondido for work so is not unsympathetic to the commuters not wanting to sit in traffic on the freeway. She said, “These people are commuting past my front yard. The problem is bigger than that. For all the people sitting in traffic, they should be outraged too.”
She plans on inviting Caltrans to the next ARC (Association for the Rainbow Community) meeting Sept. 13 to discuss the traffic issues with residents. Sheehan has seen the Caltrans plans for I-15 which call for adding two lanes in each direction by 2050.
Sheehan said, “We need to get this updated, based on the growth in the Inland Empire. We need more than that and sooner than that.” She later added that, “the 2050 plan is revised every four years and we need to attend a SANDAG meeting, perhaps contact those in charge. Awareness may be our best bet.”
Sheehan has volunteered to start putting together the ARC newsletter which will have news of future meetings and communications with DPW and Caltrans. For more information, email [email protected].