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By Eric Heinz
There’s an understandable unnerving moment, when driving northbound on the Pacific Coast Highway between San Clemente and Dana Point, as a bicyclist is traveling a few feet from an automobile.
The city is planning to create an area for pedestrians and bicyclists to travel more safe on the west side of the Pacific Coast Highway, a safe buffer between the highway and the railroad that runs alongside it. The city also plans to put in a median that would separate portions of the highway by Camino San Clemente and Camino Capistrano, as well as make for more visibility at the intersections where pedestrians cross to get to the beach areas.
Ideally, this would keep bicyclists from the Class 2 bike lanes, which are not protected but separated by a painted line, and keep them on Class 1 passages, which are protected by medians.
San Clemente Transportation Engineering Manager Tom Frank said this project has been at the top of his priority lists for some time. Frank said the initial plans started in 2011 but had been backlogged.
“Where we’re at is we’re reviewing the 100 percent design drawings and we need to get approval from CalTrans and Federal Highway Administration because there’s a grant that’s associated with this project,” Frank said. “We’re in their grant review process, and once we get the approval we’re hoping to bid the project out by the end of this year, but most likely will go to bid in January.”
The grant from the Highway Safety Improvement Program is more than $665,000. The entirety of the project, with a match from the city, is a little more than $2 million.
Frank said he is hopeful that construction on the project will begin in the spring and finish in late 2016.
“The timing looks like it’s coming into place because we want to construct our improvements after the Sea Summit roadway improvements are completed,” Frank said. “The scope of our project is pretty extensive, modifying the signals at Camino Capistrano and Camino San Clemente. We will be doing demolitions of the concrete work and curb extensions.”
The paths also run alongside the city’s Marblehead Beach Trail, which was completed to much rejoicing last year.
The intersection at Camino Capistrano would also be constructed as “bulb out,” or increased in curvature for better line of sight and pedestrian efficiency.
“One of the reasons why we’re doing that is to improve the efficiency for vehicles,” Frank said. “One of our critical signal phases is the pedestrian phase to move them from the inland to the coastal side to get beach access. We have to have a certain time frame to get pedestrians across, based on walking times. This shortens that time frame and gives more green light time for that intersection.”
Frank said curbs with wider radii provide more opportunities for landscaping.
The landscape medians near the intersections and the 2.3-mile stretch of two-lane bikeways are expected to have native foliage.
“This project also includes a missing-gap sidewalk segment, which will bring people from the new trails on the Sea Summit area up through Camino Capistrano on the inland side,” Frank said. “There’s really three or four projects tied into one big package.”
The projects are expected to be bid all at once in a large segment, Frank said.
Current project construction taking place to the east side of the highway is for a private project going through public areas.
“On the east side are the street improvements associated with the Sea Summit at Marblehead,” Frank said. “They’re also doing some roadway improvements and storm drain improvements.”
During the time of the construction of the project, Frank said there will be some traffic mitigation, but he said he doesn’t expect any full-time closures.
“We’ll put up advanced signs to let the public know and to ask for patience,” Frank said. “It’s likely we’ll just divert cars from one side of the road to the other.”