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Supervisors approve updated road standards

For the first time since 1999, the San Diego County Board of Supervisors adopted updates to the county’s public road standards.

A pair of 5-0 votes approved the introduction and first reading of the ordinance amendments Feb. 24 and approved the second reading and adoption March 3.

“It seems to me this is a good balance,” said county supervisor Ron Roberts.

Three county Planning Commission hearings and an additional three subcommittee workshops led to refinements from the original county staff recommendations. The new standards allow for flexibility to balance community character, public safety, and traffic flow.

The standards also specify the procedure for exemptions if circumstances warrant. “The standards are guidelines,” said county Department of Public Works traffic engineer Bob Goralka.

The updates create 19 new road classifications and also cover pathway, engineering, and driveway spacing standards.

The 17 additional circulation element classification categories are major road with intermittent turn lanes, boulevard with raised median, boulevard with intermittent turn lanes, community collector with raised median, community collector with continuous left turn lane, community collector with intermittent turn lanes, community collector with passing lane, community collector with no median, light collector with raised median, light collector with continuous left turn lane, light collector with intermittent turn lanes, light collector with passing lane, light collector with no median, light collector with reduced shoulder, minor collector with raised median, minor collector with intermittent turn lanes, and minor collector with no median.

Those new classifications join the circulation element road classifications of expressway, prime arterial, major road, collector, town collector, light collector, rural collector, rural light collector, rural mountain, and recreational parkway.

The revisions added the rural residential collector and rural residential road classifications to the non-circulation element road classifications which also consist of residential collector, residential, residential cul-de-sac, residential loop, industrial/commercial collector, industrial/commercial, industrial/commercial cul-de-sac, frontage, alley and hillside residential.

A rural residential collector would be designed to accommodate an average daily traffic volume of between 1,500 and 4,500 vehicles while a rural residential road would service an average volume of less than 1,500 vehicles. Both are intended to serve areas with lot sizes of at least two acres, and on-street parking would be prohibited. The standards for both include a total right-of-way width of 48 feet, a pavement width of 28 feet between the curb faces, and a minimum pavement thickness of three inches of asphalt concrete pavement and six inches of Portland cement concrete pavement.

All circulation element road classifications have a minimum lane width of twelve feet as do all non-circulation element residential road classifications other than hillside residential, which does not have a specific minimum width. The rural residential road and rural residential collector classifications also require 12-foot lanes.

The changes also revise pathway standards to provide consistency with the county’s Community Trails Master Plan and update provisions to address current engineering practices. The pathway updates incorporate existing Community Trails Master Plan design and construction guidelines, eliminate the requirement that the pathway be contiguous with the curb, and provide clarification that additional right-of-way may be necessary where pathways are required to exceed 10 feet in width. The revisions to address current engineering standards update reference documents, eliminate the requirement that sidewalks be contiguous to the curb, include additional guardrail evaluation and installation guidelines consistent with the California Department of Transportation traffic manual, refer to industry standards and guidelines regarding the evaluation and installation of roundabouts and signalized intersections, refer to engineering guidelines regarding intersection sight distance criteria, and reduce intersection spacing criteria for private driveways and private roads which intersect with a public road and serve no more than 20 dwelling units.

The previous standards required driveways or private roads to be separated by at least 300 feet if entering a circulation element road and by 200 feet if entering a non-circulation element road. The revision reduces the separation distance for driveways serving fewer than 20 dwelling units and entering a non-circulation element road to 100 feet.

All requests involving exemptions to adopted community right-of-way development guidelines will require input and a written recommendation from the local community planning or sponsor group while all requests for exemptions involving road

widths, angle of departure, or vertical clearance will require a letter from the fire authority with jurisdiction. Although the director of the county’s Department of Planning and Land Use can override those recommendations, any such decision will involve letter containing reasons for the director’s determination. (A director’s decision can be appealed to the planning commission.)

A project applicant may request an exemption by completing a request form which includes alternatives considered and consequences of compliance, and a community advisory group may recommend that an applicant process an exemption request if standards for the project do not conform to an established community plan for the area.

Improvements to existing public roads are often required as conditions of approval for development projects. The “Flexibility in County Road Design” guidelines encourage designers to consider all modes of transportation including pedestrian, bicycle, and equestrian traffic as well as automobiles.

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