With barely a week’s notice a meeting held at 4 p.m. on a work day, the Design Review Board accepted public comments regarding a multi-million dollar major change to 9th Street from Ream Field to Calla. This “Improvement Project” on the last four-lane major thoroughfare in Imperial Beach is to “improve mobility, accessibility, landscaping, and water quality…” The project is also supposed to “Showcase sustainable and multi-benefit transportation.” What it won’t do is improve vehicle traffic flow. Yet the city is prepared to spend $3.3 million tearing up and rebuilding an adequate four-lane thoroughfare.

As pointed out to the Board, 9th Street is one of the last four lane collector (Class 1) streets left in Imperial Beach. Traffic is fed to a reduced traffic flow thoroughfare (Class II) Imperial Beach Blvd. which had been a Class I. Imperial Beach Blvd. is marked as a Tsunami evacuation route. It has now been reduced in capacity for that purpose. 9th Street is a route that goes from the southern lower elevation area closer to the Tijuana River Valley to higher ground near Palm Ave/SH-75. This project will further reduce the emergency evacuation capability of city streets in a river flood (Rodriguez Dam break) and/or tsunami resulting from an earthquake. Reducing these streets to a Class II additionally creates slower response times for emergency vehicles from the Fire and Sheriff stations on Imperial Beach Blvd.

According to the public announcement, “The City’s traffic engineering consultant determined from its mobility assessment that 9th Street would still operate at acceptable levels of service with implementation of the project.” Do drivers in Imperial Beach want “acceptable levels of service?” Not likely.

Then it can be said that the current sidewalks along 9th Street are “adequate” for pedestrian traffic and have ADA ramps. These sidewalks currently have limited pedestrian usage, thus there is no need for expansion. Current bus stops are adequate for the limited numbers of passengers handled at these stops. The bicycle lanes installed along Imperial Beach Blvd. have very limited usage, thus the claim to increase mobility is an exaggeration. Local neighborhood cyclists primarily use neighborhood streets to move around the city. Intercity cycling access is provided by the Bayshore Bikeway. This project will provide no direct access to the Bikeway. Ask City staff for a bike lane usage count and it will show how few cyclists use the expensive bike lanes.

These bike lanes are credited as a traffic calming measure, yet calming could be done by increasing the visibility of existing traffic lanes with paint and bots at a lower cost than fancy bike lanes. Bike lanes, like crosswalks, provide a false sense of security but provide no physical protection from motor vehicles. Actually, City staff will admit the purpose of this project is Traffic Calming, not improved transportation. Speeding is a problem on 9th, so why not have the Sheriff’s Department enforce the speed limit? Coronado PD does that on Silver Strand.

A better use for tax dollars than “showcasing” would be to insure continuous maintenance and repair of the street surfaces and perhaps provide street trees for improved landscaping. As to multi-benefit transportation, 9th Street currently has pedestrian, cyclist, bus, electric cart, and auto capability. Painted crosswalks and school crossings are marked. A need that exists is separating skateboards and electric scooters from pedestrians on sidewalks which is not mentioned.

Imperial Beach has been mandated to provide additional housing. Additional housing will mean additional vehicles that require parking. This plan will likely reduce rather than add on-street parking. How is this an improvement?

How is water quality improved under this project? Does landscaping increase water quality? Details not provided.

This project will be a hindrance for commuters leaving the city in the morning and returning at night. Traffic will be more congested, causing more idling vehicle engines with increased exhaust. These funds could be better used and should be reallocated to under-grounding utilities – this action, promised long ago for 9th Street, would improve the streetscape, and removal of utility poles would enhance the use of sidewalks.

Vol. 38, No. 30 - Thursday, July 28, 2022

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