October 6, 2000



by Lisa Ross

Long and winding road to State Route 56

By now, sleepy heads on both ends of the future SR56 will have popped out of the sand. On Monday, Carmel Valley's worst nightmare, the Black Mountain Road loop connecting Rancho Penasquitos to the west end of SR56, opened months before expected, with consequences likely to cause more tantrums in Rancho Penasquitos and Carmel Valley and thumb sucking by transportation planners than we've seen in years.

That's because 20,000 drivers seeking their way west will soon discover a) their long-awaited connection to I-5 cannot handle the traffic, b) Del Mar Heights Road, the 6-lane straight shot to I-5 is closed, and c) the only way to head north onto I-5 from SR56 is to exit into a traffic mess at Carmel Valley Road. These commuters are surely grumpy bears.

For those living in tranquil denial, the Black Mountain loop road is the dangerous pothole filled two-laner that until Monday stopped and started at an unpatrolled dirt road, fondly known as Blood Alley, near Evergreen Nursery. While developer Taylor Woodrow builds out the road to four lanes as a requirement of their Black Mountain Ranch project, the improved east end opened all the way to I-15, the dirt road is gone and cars are pouring, more likely oozing, onto SR56 on the west through several construction detours.

The road opened now because over the summer, a new tract mansion development filled up with families who, oddly enough, did not feel safe ferrying their kids to school on a dangerous dirt road. How is that for phased transportation planning? And, wrangling between Taylor Woodrow, property owners in the SR56 right of way, and Caltrans over how to build the connection to SR56, and a futile Caltrans attempt to open Del Mar Heights instead, delayed the road improvements for almost a year.

That's right—Caltrans officials tried their ever-loving best to make Del Mar Heights Road the de facto SR56 and turn Carmel Valley collector streets into on-ramps. Councilman Harry Mathis, known for honoring commitments under fire, said "no way" in spite of heavy pressure from Rancho Penasquitos activists.