The Importance of the Regents Road Bridge
Richard J. Prutow, Ph.D., M.D
The time has come to follow the University City Community Plan and build the Regents Road Bridge! As discussed below, this is the only way to improve the level of service for all modes of transportation within the community as required by federal and state law.
Federal code states that transportation planning should provide for the development of an integrated system that includes pedestrian walkways and bikeways as part of an intermodal transportation system.
This is supported by U.S. Secretary of Transportation Roy LaHood, who stated that bicyclists and pedestrians would get the same priority as cars and trucks. A state law that takes effect Jan. 1, 2011 will require determination of the level of service for all modes of transportation as part of an environmental impact report (EIR). This bill, AB 1358, requires that the circulation element of a community general plan include a “balanced, multimodal transportation network that meets the needs of all users of the streets, roads and highways, defined to include motorists, pedestrians, bicyclists, children, persons with disabilities, seniors, movers of commercial goods, and users of public transportation…” The 2010 Highway Capacity Manual (HCM), available Jan. 1, 2011, will incorporate an expanded multimodal approach. San Diego’s City of Villages strategy calls for an “attractive multimodal transportation system in which pedestrians, bicycles, and transit vehicles are accommodated in addition to automobiles.” Such a system would improve mobility for San Diegans by providing competitive alternatives to the automobile. For this to work, cyclists and pedestrians must have every opportunity to move safely and enjoyably throughout the community.
The above laws and guidelines require that any traffic study in University City (UC) be analyzed as a multimodal transportation network. Obviously, the intra-network circulation in UC is severely impeded by the presence of only one path between north and south UC, i.e. Genesee Ave. This makes the network very inefficient and subject to failure. The proposed trolley to north UC will improve inter-network circulation, however, it will have little effect on intra-network circulation. The only way to improve intra-network circulation in UC is to introduce a second connection in the network between north and south UC, i.e. the Regents Road Bridge.
Genesee, the only local north-south connection, is an unpleasant and dangerous road for pedestrians and bicyclists because of high traffic speeds, high volumes of traffic, and significant changes in elevation (170+ feet). This became an issue in 1978 when it was proposed to shift some Clairemont students to UC High School. This was rejected by the school district because of complaints that “students would face hilly and hazardous bicycling conditions on busy Genesee.” This intersection is unique in that students traverse the intersection to go to elementary school, middle school and high school.
In the University City EIR traffic study, the Regents Road Bridge had a unique positive impact at the Governor-Genesee intersection. The Regents Road Bridge results in a significant reduction in cars going south and turning right (1,045 turns vs. 537 turns, 47 percent reduction) and cars going east and turning left (1,133 turns vs. 399 turns, 65 percent reduction) at the Governor-Genesee intersection. This result demonstrates that the Regents Road Bridge would result in a significant reduction in turns at this intersection.
This intersection has a problem regarding pedestrian and bicycle safety because of the number of cars turning and the number of school children crossing the intersection. Right-turn-on-red endangers pedestrians, especially young children who may not be readily visible to drivers. The above reduction in turns would result in a significant improvement in pedestrian and bicycle safety and level of service at the intersection. None of the other proposed projects had such a positive impact on this intersection. Because of this result it would be irresponsible not to seriously consider building the Regents Road Bridge.
Compared to Genesee Avenue, the Regents Road Bridge offers a much more pleasing alternative route across Rose Canyon because of less traffic, minimal changes in elevation and pleasant views of Rose Canyon. Of the design alternatives in the UC North-South Transportation Corridor Study, only the Regents Road Bridge would provide a level surface with a class II bicycle lane that would facilitate pedestrian and bicycle travel between south and north UC. The bridge would allow students in north UC who live near Doyle Elementary School to bicycle or walk to Stanley Middle School in south UC. This would reduce the traffic at the Governor–Genesee intersection since many of these students are currently driven to Stanley Middle School. The bridge would also improve bicycling to UCSD and reduce driving time between north and south UC.
Getting people to walk and bicycle rather than drive would reduce greenhouse gas emissions as required by the California Environmental Quality Act. This also supports the CDC’s “Healthy People 2010” and “Kids Walk-to-School” programs, and the California Department of Public Health “Walk-to-School” program. The goal of these programs is to have children and adults walk and bicycle to school, to work, to run errands, and for exercise.
It is estimated that about 18 percent of the local population are people with disabilities. The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that the population older than 65 will increase by 33 percent within 15 years. Planning for the mobility needs of the elderly and infirm should be an integral part of any transportation system design process. The bridge would allow the elderly and infirm to walk or use their wheelchairs to cross between north and south UC and enjoy views of Rose Canyon not otherwise available. In 2005, the state settled a class-action lawsuit regarding lack of access to state parks by the disabled. One of the plaintiffs stated: “People with disabilities want to experience every aspect of life, including nature, that makes us all human beings.”
In conclusion, building the Regents Road Bridge would significantly improve intra-network multimodal transportation circulation within the UC community for drivers, bicyclists, pedestrians and the disabled. These improvements would reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Ignoring the advantages of the Regents Road Bridge within the UC community multimodal transportation system can subject the city to a lawsuit for not having followed federal, state and local transportation policy guidelines.
— Richard J. Prutow, Ph.D., M.D., was a 30-year resident of University City.
San Diego Community News Group – The importance of the Regents Road Bridge