TAC recommends Sandia Creek Drive weight limit

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The May 21 fatal accident involving a truck driver who lost control of his vehicle on the private road section of Sandia Creek Drive has highlighted concern about trucks on the road, and the county’s Traffic Advisory Committee recommended Friday, June 12, that the San Diego County Board of Supervisors approve a 7-ton weight limit on the public road portion of Sandia Creek Drive.

The unanimous TAC recommendation is scheduled to be heard by the board of supervisors Sept. 30. Should the county supervisors approve a first reading and introduction of the ordinance that day a second reading and adoption is anticipated to occur Oct. 14, in which case the weight limit would become effective Nov. 13. The weight limit would apply only to the publicly maintained road, although the privately maintained road currently has a weight limit sign and will reduce that limit to match the county’s 7-ton limit.

“We really shouldn’t have them there on the roadway,” Zoubir Ouadah, county traffic engineer, said. 

Sandia Creek Drive between De Luz Road and the end of the county-maintained portion of the road measures 2.61 miles. The striped two-lane roadway has a width of 25 feet. 

“The road is very narrow, and it really doesn’t provide a safe line of sight for traffic in both directions,” Kelley Gerwig, resident of Sandia Creek Drive, said. 

There is no posted speed limit on Sandia Creek Drive, which creates a legal speed limit of 55 mph, and curves in the road are preceded by advisory signs which recommend limiting speed to 30 mph or 25 mph. 

“We do have curves in the road. That does not support trucks navigating safely,” Ernie Bartley, senior civil engineer for the county Department of Public Works, said. “It’s very steep. It’s very curvy.”

The mobility element of the county’s general plan classified Sandia Creek Drive as a minor collector, which is intended primarily for residential neighborhoods or rural areas with steep slopes and physical constraints.

Traffic surveys were taken 3,000 feet north of Rock Mountain Drive on two consecutive days in August 2019. On Tuesday, Aug. 13, the 1,830 total vehicles consisted of 1,345 northbound and 485 southbound motorists. The heaviest hourly traffic was between 4-5 p.m. when 437 drivers were counted, and the 168 drivers between 6-7 a.m. made that hour the busiest for that morning. On Wednesday, Aug. 14, 1,380 northbound and 429 southbound vehicles created a total of 1,809 drivers with 427 of those drivers traveling between 4-5 p.m. and 122 motorists making 6-7 a.m. the busiest morning hour.

The Aug. 13 traffic consisted of 1,740 passenger cars, 45 single-unit vehicles with two axles and four tires, 29 motorcycles, eight three-axle single units, four buses, three single units with two axles and six tires and one single unit with more than four axles. The Aug. 14 survey counted 1,706 passenger cars, 50 single-unit vehicles with two axles and four tires, 35 motorcycles, 10 three-axle single units, four buses, three single units with two axles and six tires and one single trailer vehicle with no more than four axles.

“There have been some issues with truck traffic,” Bartley said.

“They’re not delivering anything on this road. They’re just using it to cut through,” Gerwig said.

“They’re taking this road to avoid something else,” Kenton Jones, TAC secretary, said. 

A weight limit must include an alternate truck route, and the TAC action specified East Mission Road to Interstate 15 as that alternate route. Kevin Smale, who represented the California Highway Patrol’s Oceanside office on the TAC for the June 12 meeting, noted one potential reason truck traffic desires to avoid East Mission Road and Interstate 15. 

“They try to dodge the scale,” he said.

Avoiding traffic congestion along Interstate 15 is another motive for truck traffic to use Sandia Creek Drive, and global positioning systems may indicate shorter mileage totals by taking the shortcut through De Luz rather than the major roads.

The collision data only includes reported collisions on the public portion of the roadway and covered the period from Jan. 1, 2017, to Dec. 31, 2019. The 13 reported collisions on the public road during those 36 months provided a collision rate of 2.51 per million vehicle miles. The statewide average for similar rural one-lane or two-lane conventional rolling roads with speed limits less than or equal to 55 mph is 1.26 collisions per million vehicle miles.

The public road section of Sandia Creek Drive has few driveways, but the private road portion accesses more homes. 

“Sandia Creek feeds right into a neighborhood,” Bartley said. “It’s an entrance to a private property.”

The bridge on the public road section was intended for residents rather than through traffic. 

“This is not designed as a true bridge. It’s more of a local bridge,” Bartley said.

Sandia Creek Drive also has a Riverside County portion which is administered by the De Luz Community Services District. Gerwig is working with the De Luz Community Services District for a weight limit on the Murrieta portion of the road.

The properties on the private section of the road do not have a homeowners’ association, and volunteers in conjunction with a road maintenance agreement optimize the condition of Sandia Creek Drive.

The homeowners on the private portion have discussed installing gates on both sides. 

“It’s continuing to be an ongoing effort on our side,” Gerwig said. “We’ve been working on it diligently for the past 18 months.”

In addition to approval from the county Department of Public Works and the De Luz Community Services District, gate installation will also involve land use agencies and emergency responders.

The current sign for the private portion of the road stipulates an 8-ton weight limit. Those signs will be changed to reduce the weight limit to 7 tons.

The weight limit will apply only to through traffic and not to any truck traffic making deliveries to or from properties along Sandia Creek Drive.

Any truck drivers from Murrieta will see the public road weight limit sign on the northern portion of Sandia Creek Drive so that the southbound drivers will know to take an alternate route. 

“We will be signing the advisory in both directions,” Ouadah said.