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Dig Imperial Beach

Read Jim Kings's response to "With all the new development going on in the city, what steps can be taken so we don't end up with big traffic Jams"?

Oct 03, 2014 10:00AM ● By Paul Spear
From the movie "Field of Dreams" the dominant theme was "If you build it they will come"- especially if it is built well and caters to peoples pleasure entertainment and consumption needs. Regarding the question about traffic congestion, it is an inevitable side affect intensifying high quality land uses, whether here or anywhere else. You can't have it both ways though. It is not possible, even in the tiniest most majestic or quaint towns, to have a robust economy and at the same time not experience high volumes of people from outside. Any highly sought after destination will have increased pedestrian,
bicycle and vehicular traffic. An often used solution promoted by traffic engineers is to install stop lights. There is nothing that will diminish quaintness of the character of a place quicker and more profoundly than traffic lights. I do not favor additional lights west of their present locations along Palm Avenue or I.B. Boulevard. Alternatives could include closing streets to through traffic during certain peak periods, having some one way streets, introducing local trams or small scale shuttle services, or adding parking garages to get cars off the streets.In any event one of the unintended consequences of increased traffic is that things will SLOW DOWN. This is not necessarily a bad thing although it can cause more noise and increase a towns carbon footprint. The solutions will by the very nature of change, evolve through time and with public engagement because traffic is a "dynamic "issue that affects everyone and in many different ways, People will and do speak out when they are directly affected. When they are not they are often silent.

The development of the adjacent "Silver Strand Training Complex" as it was referred to in the original Environmental Impact Report, will through time have a major positive economic impact on the Imperial Beach business sector. Conversely however, it will also contribute a substantial amount of new road traffic as well. The City government needs to actively engaged now with the Navy to discuss, evaluate and plan for these impacts and to insure the Navy also is a major contributor to mitigation measures. After all, were it not for the magnitude of the Navy's plans, the impact of the Navy's activities would be minimal as it is presently. The first and most obvious measure would be for the Navy to relocate the main entrance to the base to the north end.This is a necessity as the present entrance traverses a residential neighborhood. When the Navy first brought the idea of the Silver Strand Training Complex forward, the environmental impacts that were discussed related only to the mock warfare training operations and their effects on the physical ecosystems. The base expansion to include thousands of enlisted and civilian personnel was not addressed. This conversation needs to happen and the community of Imperial Beach must be considered in the context of a human ecosystem.

Traffic on Palm Avenue is almost always heavy even now. Because there are three lanes in both directions Palm creates a wide boundary that divides the community not only by its wideness but also because of the intensity of the traffic. As the 9th and Palm commercial project is completed there will be a realignment of the connection to "Old Palm" that will facilitate better traffic flow from one to the other as well as making the frontage along Palm more pedestrian compatible. Moving east of 9th there is a proposal to reduce Palm from 3-lanes to two lanes each way, with a landscaped median separating the 3rd into a low speed business serving parking lane. Sidewalks would be widened. This would narrow the high speed vehicular footprint of Palm Avenue and adapt its borders to facilitate much more pedestrian friendly people centered uses. It would emphasize pedestrian uses the over automobile uses of the "Avenue". In the context of "community" this would create a more "human scale"  environment, more conducive and comfortable to walking, strolling
and personal interactions. 

All of these ideas and plans are visions that fit into a broader framework developed through prior years of planning efforts that have involved considerable outreach and community engagement. These plans take place over a long window of time thereby allowing modifications, additions, deletions and sometime abandonment as conditions change and new or better ideas emerge. Change is the only true constant. Economic and community sustainability are the objectives. Economy cannot expand without greater intensity of all types of traffic. The challenge is to be a good steward of the public trust of protecting "community" while at the same time accommodating  and guiding change in a manner that preserves the values that make a community unique. 


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