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Traffic Signal Priority List with updated data reviewed

One of the functions of the county’s Traffic Advisory Committee (TAC) is to recommend wh ether to place an intersection on the county’s Traffic Signal Priority List. If the San Diego County Board of Supervisors ratifies the TAC recommendation to place an intersection on the Traffic Signal Priority List, then priority points determine the next intersections to be signalized when funding is available, rather than the length of time the intersection has been on the list. The August 27 TAC meeting included a presentation of the current list with updated data.

“Some of these items have been on this list for a long time,” said Carl Hickman, the traffic signal coordinator for the County of San Diego’s Department of Public Works. “Sometimes they sit a while on the list before they actually get installed.”

Ten intersections are currently on the county’s Traffic Signal Priority List. The most recent addition is the Fallbrook intersection of South Mission Road and Aviation Road, which was placed on the list by the county supervisors June 23 after an April 23 TAC recommendation. The two intersections which have been on the list for the longest time, the Dehesa intersection of Dehesa Road and Harbison Canyon Road and the Fallbrook intersection of Fallbrook Street and Old Stage Road, were recommended for the list at the TAC’s January 1996 meeting.

Three of the intersections on the priority list are in Fallbrook: South Mission Road and Aviation Road, Fallbrook Street and Old Stage Road, and Fallbrook Street and McDonald Road. The list does not include the intersection of South Mission Road and Pepper Tree Lane, which the TAC voted to recommend placing on the list earlier during its August 27 meeting but which has not been placed on the list by the Board of Supervisors or given priority points.

The list also does not include the Spring Valley intersection of Jamacha Road and Helix Street, which is currently in the design phase. A separate list covers seven intersections where developers, the California Department of Transportation, or an incorporated city will take the lead for the installation of a traffic signal which includes at least one county-maintained road.

Other than the South Mission Road and Aviation Road intersection, which utilized data from October 2009, the current list utilizes data from July 2010. In addition to the specific location and the date the TAC recommended the intersection for the priority list, the updated data includes volume, safety, and operational warrants met for a traffic signal as well as current traffic volume data. “You want to have the most current information,” Hickman said.

The information also includes whether any development funding has been placed in an account. “Sometimes those funds sit for years before the actual construction takes place,” Hickman said.

The data also includes comments related to conditions not apparent to the motorist such as collision data, nearby schools, and community sentiment, and the presence of any new schools was included in the update. The collision data focuses on collisions correctable by a traffic signal such as right-of-way violations from turns and does not reflect drunk driving, cars driving off the road, or other incidents not correctable by a signal.

The county currently operates and maintains 185 traffic signals in unincorporated San Diego County, including 20 in Fallbrook and two in Bonsall. Approximately 100 additional signals at the intersection of a county road and a state highway or freeway ramp are operated and maintained by the California Department of Transportation, although the county shares in the maintenance cost.

The county averages five to six signal installations each year, although some of those may be part of developments approved by the Board of Supervisors without placement of an intersection on the priority list, so the number of intersections removed from the priority list does not necessarily match the number of signals installed. Signals can be requested by the Board of Supervisors, the land development or capital improvements divisions of the Department of Public Works, law enforcement representatives, or community members.

The intersection of Mission Road and Aviation Road is at the top of the current priority list with 35 points. The Rancho San Diego intersection of Fury Lane and Calle Verde, which was recommended for signalization by the TAC in April 1999, now ranks second on the list with 29 points. Fallbrook Street and McDonald Road, recommended for the list in January 2002, ranks third with 28 points.

Although the intersection of Dehesa Road and Harbison Canyon Road and the intersection of Fallbrook Street and Old Stage Road now both have 26 priority points, the Dehesa intersection which had seven reported collisions over the most recent two-year period is ranked fourth while the Fallbrook intersection is ranked fifth.

Traffic volume distribution is also a major factor in priority points. “We want to try to have a balance of volumes,” Hickman said.

Points are given based on vehicular volume, pedestrian volume, flow interruption reduction, hazard reduction potential, coordinated movement potential, and special conditions. The coordinated movement criteria include the potential to coordinate an intersection with other signalized intersections, and some intersections which were analyzed after nearby signals were installed acquired coordination benefits.

The intersection of Old Highway 80 and Buckman Springs Road on the Pine Valley/Campo border, which was recommended for signalization in July 1999, has had no reported collisions over the past two years and now has zero priority points. Any decision to remove that intersection from the priority list will involve a review by the TAC for such a recommendation.

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