At around 8:30 a.m. on Saturday, May 10, SDG&E started a construction project to get power across Olivenhain Road to a new, small development of condos off of Amargosa Drive.
The construction required the reduction of westbound lanes to one, and the traffic signal at the intersection of Olivenhain Road and Amargosa was turned to flashing red. As a result, motorists coming over the hill from San Marcos, down Rancho Santa Fe Road, got caught in a 15- to 20-minute backup trying to get through to El Camino Real, or to continue west on Leucadia Boulevard, to I-5 or the beaches of Encinitas.
Frank, the SDG&E foreman of the eight-truck workforce, said they purposely scheduled the massive project on a Saturday to avoid the voluminous Monday-through-Friday commuters. “It seems like we have just as much traffic now,” he said.
A 9:30 a.m. call to the Carlsbad police department dispatcher said there was nothing the police would do to relieve the backed up traffic, such as require a flagman to get motorists through the intersection quicker. “As long as the area is properly posted and the red lights were flashing and there are no accidents, we won’t be sending someone out,” she said.
At 10:30 a.m., the onsite SDG&E foreman called their dispatcher to advise of the traffic concerns. They said they found a way to get the under-the-street portion done quicker and should have the signals back on earlier — by 1:00 p.m.
On his noon traffic update on KOGO AM 600, traffic reporter John Monte mentioned the jam and suggested an alternate route of La Costa Avenue to El Camino Real.
Realizing the Saturday traffic coming over the hill from from San Marcos wasn’t as light as predicted, Frank added, “We should have scheduled this at night. We do most of our projects like this at night.”
SDG&E was supposed to have the neighborhood blacked out while hooking up the new power lines, but they found a way to only shut off four homes next to the new project. The rest of the neighborhood was spared the long outage.