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Rochelle Dawes has been the principal at Walker Elementary for a year. She tells me by phone that she polled her teachers about the meeting that the environmental document claims took place at Walker six months before she arrived. None of the teachers remembered the meeting.

Excessive foot traffic near and through her school, says Dawes, is what makes an on-ramp nearby so dangerous. Students from Wangenheim Middle School, Mira Mesa High School, and Miramar College also walk along Hillery and cut through the Walker campus. “Plus,” says Dawes, “most of my students arrive on foot. Of those who are dropped off by car, their parents are always driving in the exit and out the entrance. The traffic problems are already a nightmare.” Dawes tells me that she stands out front of Walker in the mornings to direct traffic safely.

The environmental document admits that Hillery’s traffic problems are already severe but says they can be mitigated by various traffic-calming measures. Dawes isn’t impressed by such statements. She’d like more specific solutions. Gustavo Dallarda, when he and I spoke, cited speed bumps along the portion of Hillery Drive west of Black Mountain Road as an effective way to discourage drivers from using that section of the street. He envisages the vast majority of cars approaching the Hillery on-ramp from both directions on Black Mountain and turning onto it east toward the freeway and away from Walker Elementary.

Ted Brengel, who is the president of the Mira Mesa Community Planning Group, tells me that he favors the southern alternative. The on-ramp, though an extension of Hillery, would be over a quarter mile away from the school, on the other side of Black Mountain Road. But he bristled at a suggestion that his planning group take sides at its November 17 meeting, five days after the public hearing. The suggestion had come to him by email even before the hearing — from Jim Sullivan.

Sullivan opened the email by mentioning “some of the steps I’ve been involved with [regarding] my opposition to a northern direct-access ramp at Galvin Avenue.” He then urged Brengel to place an “action item” on the planning group’s agenda in favor of the southern alternative because otherwise “we will miss the December 8 deadline for public comment.”

“I feel your pain,” Brengel responded, “but I would like to ask you to change your approach.” He criticized Sullivan for only helping alert the Hage Elementary principal and parents to the danger of a ramp close to their school. “Perhaps you could do the same for Walker Elementary School and Wangenheim Middle School.”

Sullivan feels the criticism was unwarranted. Walker Elementary people should have known what they faced after the meeting at their school a year and a half earlier.

“Two representatives from Walker Elementary came to the public notification meeting, the principal and another lady. The second lady came up to me afterward and said, ‘Our kids are in danger too.’ She was pretty aggressive. So I pointed out to her the chance her school has to get traffic mitigation. That can’t happen at Hage on Galvin Avenue. ‘So if I were you,’ I said, ‘I’d get in there and lobby Caltrans very hard for good traffic mitigation and make them pay for it. If the on-ramp goes in down by your school, you could end up having better traffic control than you even have now.’ By the time we finished talking, the lady seemed fired up,” Sullivan tells me.

Why did Caltrans put the Galvin Avenue alternative in the draft environmental document? “Their officials will tell you they have to provide some alternative for the public to consider,” says Sullivan, “but I think it was a red herring. Gustavo Dallarda alerted me early because he knew I’d jump in there and mobilize people to come out to the public meeting. And it was very well attended. The Hillery Drive alternative was his choice all along.”

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Comments

EBasil Feb. 5, 2009 @ 11:14 a.m.

Thanks to the San Diego Reader for covering this issue. Whether you're in Mira Mesa or Scripps Ranch (the two communities these particular Direct Access Ramps will serve) or anywhere else along the I-15 corridor where such ramps are planned, there are lessons you can learn from the facts in this project.

We still don't know whether CalTrans will put this project where it was originally planned for, or literally, right next to Hage Elementary School.

Note some details:

--Caltrans provided NO NOTICE of this project to many people who will be directly affected: the Principals of both schools received no notice. Neither did the US Marine Corps, which owns and maintains housing directly across the street from Hage, and only 80 feet from the proposed freeway ramp, receive any notice. Neither did the homeowners and residents that live on Galvin Avenue, which Caltrans proposes to shuttle at least 5,000 cars across, every day, to reach the Hage/Galvin DAR project. Neither did the owners of homes along Capricorn Way, which is currently used an an alternative for the 56 Freeway, receive any notice of a plan that would make their street an even more popular route to reach I-15.

So, if you think a project might be proposed for your neighborhood along the I-15, you might want to ASK. If Caltrans hadn't told Jim Sullivan and he hadn't alerted people he knows in Mira Mesa, the Mira Mesa Community might never have known. Don't wait for someone to tell you about it.

--The Hage/Galvin freeway ramp is government lunacy at its worst: 5,000 cars a day right across the front of a school with terrible traffic problems and a pending developement of 1,800 homes right across the street that will add another 3,600 cars per day to the exact same streets. Freeway traffic on an offramp aimed right at the only driveway to the School. $50 million dollars extra to build it. Current construction on the ramps at Mira Mesa Blvd and sound walls along the 15 would be torn down, thrown in the trash and rebuilt, only 2 years after your tax dollars paid for them the first time. What would have happened if Mira Mesan's didn't find out about this? Did you know that some folks in Scripps Ranch voice opinions in favor of the Hage/Galvin location?

--Over 150 Mira Mesa residents and parents analyzed the CalTrans proposals for the Direct Access Ramps and submitted written objections to the Galvin/Hage ramp location. It doesn't matter which school our kids go to: a freeway ramp 80 feet from a school with 5,000 cars passing through an intersection that is already jammed every morning, that requires years of construction on the I-15/Mira Mesa ramps and that costs $50 million dollars more than the originally intended location doesn't make sense for anyone.

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EBasil Feb. 5, 2009 @ 11:15 a.m.

(cont'd)

--The Hillery Drive project must include traffic control measures to be installed at Black Mountain and Hillery, so that drivers moving eastbound on Mira Mesa Blvd don't use Hillery as a "shortcut" and flood the front of Walker Elementary with 5,000 more cars each day. Unlike Hage/Galvin, where the only plan is to direct all the traffic right past the school, the Hillery Alternative intends that none of the additional traffic will flow past the school. None.

Walker Elementary needs and deserves the imposition of traffic controls so that the intended traffic routes on Mira Mesa Blvd and Black Mountain Road (not in front of the school) are used. The "none traffic" won't be true unless the City of San Diego (Not Caltrans) does something proactive and specific. If you're in Mira Mesa, get over to the Mira Mesa Community Planning Board meetings and ASK what YOU can do to ensure this takes place. If you do nothing, it's a safe bet nothing will be done.

--The Mira Mesa Community Planning Board didn't take an official position on this issue and submitted no Public Comments to Caltrans. Caltrans looks to our CPB to provide public outreach and input on our behalf. Although we were able to schedule this issue on the CPB's agenda well before the comment period expired and discussion took place with parents and principals from both schools, residents and the Caltrans reps in attendance, the CPB didn't vote or take any position.

Thanks go out to Hage Elementary Principal Ethel Daniels and the Hage PTA for allowing me to speak to parents at Hage's annual magic show and to show them the Caltrans plans and drawings for both DAR options. People were shocked at the proposal, even as many support the HOV lanes, and the civic participation by citizens submitting written comments on this project and attending the Caltrans "workshop" in Scripps Ranch turned out to be the only "voice of Mira Mesa" that made it into the "public record" that Caltrans must consider and address.

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EBasil Feb. 5, 2009 @ 11:15 a.m.

(Cont'd)

--The graphic/map included in the Reader article has some bolding of Galvin Ave and Hillery Drive that may be misleading: the intended traffic "routes" for the Galvin/Hage alternative are Black Mountain Rd, Galvin, and Westview Pkwy, bounding Hage Elementary on three sides (Blk Mtn is off to the west), so the bold line is under-inclusive.

The intended traffic "routes" for the Hillery Alternative are Mira Mesa Blvd, Black Mountain Road and Hillery EAST of Black Mountain, only. The bold line should not be in front of Walker Elementary, but should be on those other streets. It would also extend straight East to the I-15, without any curvature that's shown.

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bhexhexhex Feb. 10, 2009 @ 1:52 p.m.

I like the transparent noise barriers that don't block the views and let in the sun....

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