An effort to install a traffic light that would help cyclists on the Bayside Bike Trail — one supported and funded by the San Diego Association of Governments — failed to get off the ground with the Imperial Beach City Council on Wednesday, March 6.
While councilmembers expressed a willingness to spend SANDAG money on other improvements, none would make the motion needed to bring the stoplight installation at 7th Street and Palm Avenue to a vote.
"I foresee this [stoplight] creating a traffic backlog on Palm," said councilwoman Lorie Bragg. "There's not enough bang for the buck here."
The stoplight would have helped bicyclists lured into IB from the Bayside Bike Trail get across the dicey intersection of 7th and Palm and head west to Seacoast Drive, where they turn south.
Palm Avenue will be narrowed to two lanes from four, between 3rd and 7th, with bike lanes added. The Eco Bike Trail is designed as a spur off the Bayside trail; original plans — intended to draw on the trend of eco-tourism spending — date back years.
The bike-lane painting project, funded with a $1.5 million grant from SANDAG, came in under budget by about $500,000 and council members considered enhancements, including the stoplight, to eat up some of the money. The stoplight, an option in the original plan, could be added for about $120,000, according to staff reports.
Mayor Jim Janney, who reminded members that he also sits on SANDAG's board, discouraged councilmembers from dreaming up ways to spend the excess rather than give it back.
"It's kind of like we're stretching our limits here — I don't think we should be pushing the limits when it's detrimental to others in the [SANDAG] community," Janney said. "We got the largest chunk of grant money of any city in the county, and we're in the queue for the next round of funding — it's not quite right to do that."
Though there was some initial support for the stoplight, after about 20 minutes of discussion, all support had faded. When Janney called for the motion to vote on the stoplight, no one made one.
Councilman Brian Bilbray (the former congressman’s son) pointed out that the intersection is part of the tsunami evacuation route and a malfunction could make an evacuation even more difficult.
"I'm always against new stop signs and stoplights," Bilbray noted.