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Saturday traffic jam unexpected on Carlsbad surface streets

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.

Comments

Sounds dreadful, and typical. That area has massive traffic all the time, not just on weekdays, not just at rush hour, but all the time. A few years back there was some "problem" on Rancho Santa Fe Road just about where it comes down the hill and levels off (heading south or west, depending on how you regard it). So, the utility workers would cut the street down from three lanes in that direction to one. Howcum? It looked as if they wanted to dig a hole in the lane next to the curb, but then blocked off the center lane as a buffer! Nobody was in that lane. No workers there, no equipment, no nothing. But instead of having 2/3 of the arterial open, it was choked off to 1/3, and there was a nasty backup all day long. And it went on for days and days, and then just when you thought it was over, they were baaack, doing it again. Shameful, unnecessary, and totally disruptive.

So, now when you describe the foreman, "Frank" as saying they should have done it at night, you make an understatement. Frankly, Frank and his bosses should have to sit in the traffic mess they created for several days, Purgatory-style, until they learn something. But then this is SDGE we're talking about, and it learns nothing about delivering satisfaction and everything about how to rip us off, and make us suffer at the same time.

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