Create snarls for South Fallbrook residents, commuters
The cone zones are back months after area drivers breathed a sigh of relief in hopes that an agonizing south Fallbrook traffic upgrade was finally in their rear-view mirrors.
The big mess is back, but the work is impressive, the waits aren't too long and there's a pleasant cadre of lads controlling the ebb and flow of traffic in a key chunk of South Mission Road.
I live in the area where back-to-back projects that began in late 2021 have required scores of lane closures.
The first project was done by San Diego County, and it entailed installing a traffic signal at South Mission and Green Canyon roads, a busy area where multiple accidents have caused many injuries and deaths.
That $1 million project took eight years to progress from the proposal stage through the planning and approval processes and finally the construction work.
In 2014 – the year the Green Canyon signal project was first considered by county officials – a traffic survey in that area counted about 10,570 vehicles a day heading north on South Mission Road. About 1,160 vehicles a day traveled west through the Green Canyon Road intersection during that survey.
The signal project also seemed to include the installation of a massive steel power pole at South Mission and Green Canyon that replaced its wooden predecessor. It turns out that work was part of an unrelated utility project that is now underway.
The traffic signal was finally activated in November 2022. But fine-tuning work followed, including some requested by the Fallbrook Community Planning Group. The signal project, which included the installation of night lighting, has clearly improved motorist safety in and around the area.
But the traffic delays caused by the signal project sparked untold mutterings and grumblings among south Fallbrook residents, Camp Pendleton commuters, tourists and motorists heading to Vista, San Marcos, Escondido, Oceanside and other points on the compass.
Northbound drivers sometimes began to bunch up near the River Village shopping center along Highway 76. Southbound drivers would sometimes see a long line of brake lights beginning near Winter Haven Road.
Many annoyed drivers would search out detours to avoid the congestion.
I became adept at staggering my trips and keeping my finger on the pulse of the project. I've inched my way through the construction zone countless times. Although I don't know anything about him, I've become a tip-of-the-hat pal of a traffic controller there. He's a young man with a quick smile who bedecks himself with sunglasses, a neon-green coat and a pair of diamond earring studs.
And then, beginning a month or so ago, that same area became the starting point in the 4.2-mile path of a separate project in which SDG&E is replacing wooden transmission poles with steel versions.
Anthony J. Wagner, SDG&E's regional media relations manager, told me that the steel poles resist wildfires better than wood and they can hold more weight. Also, he said the existing wood poles are wearing out and the steel versions last longer.
The work now centers around the SDG&E Monserate Station, a cluster of transformers and other equipment at the northeast corner of South Mission Road and Via Encinas Drive.
That intersection is about a mile from my house, and I zip through it a few times a day in my journeys to our friendly village, the Fallbrook Senior Center and beyond. There's also a stop there for Route 306 – one of 34 bus lines operated by the North County Transit District.
About six tall poles have been or are being installed along South Mission between Via Encinas and Green Canyon, work that will result in periodic lane closures up until about Feb. 9. From there, the pole installation work will shift to a string of smaller residential streets.
Watching workers flit through the sky in an aerial ballet atop towering lifts has given this looky-loo a cheap thrill or two. Yes folks, my life is that boring.
In all, SDG&E will install 98 steel poles, hardware and insulators, remove some transformers, and do other work at various points along South Mission, Green Canyon, Montecito Drive, Havencrest Drive, Brooke Road, Calavo Road, Gerald Way, McDonald Road and Barhaven Lane.
The work will end at the southeast intersection of East Alvarado Street and Barhaven Lane near SDG&E's Avocado Substation. The work in that corridor is expected to last until September or so.
My encounters with my pal the traffic controller will likely continue throughout much of the project as I drive to and from the senior center.
I'll close this report – as I do most of my storytelling adventures – in an odd note. SDG&E apparently can't tell us ratepayers how much their project costs.
"The price of the project is not disclosed per California Public Utilities Commission regulations," Wagner wrote in an email.
Hmmm. Let's ponder that for a moment people ...