Is Morena Boulevard a “Stroad” or a “Reet”

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Vehicles wait at new traffic light signal on northbound Morena Boulevard at Balboa Avenue bridge (photo by Bill Swank)

Locals were surprised last year when “Historic 101 Route” signs appeared on Morena Boulevard. Few knew that from 1926 until 1933, Morena was a vital link in the north-south highway between San Diego and Los Angeles.

“Historic 101 Route” sign on Morena Boulevard (photo by Bill Swank)

For 85 years, Morena has served as a dependable thoroughfare along the railroad tracks from the San Diego River into Rose Canyon. Since traffic moved quickly, it was considered more of a road than a street.

What is the future of Morena Boulevard? Is it a “stroad” or a “reet?”

Chuck Marohn refers to himself as a “recovering traffic engineer.” He created the term “stroad” (street/road) to explain the predicament urban growth causes for existing thoroughfares when traffic moves too slow to be efficient, but too fast for easy access to business and residential areas.

Marohn, tongue-in-cheek stated, “I really was writing it as a way to push back at the engineering profession and get my fellow engineers to think about the bizarre things they are building.”

The cloverleaf interchange was created over 100 years ago. The purpose of cloverleaf design is to facilitate the flow of traffic at busy intersections without a need for traffic lights. Despite challenging topography for the site, a modified cloverleaf at Balboa Avenue and Morena has worked well for over 60 years.

That changed on September 19, 2018. A traffic signal light at the south end of the Morena Boulevard bridge over Balboa became operational when access to southbound Morena from eastbound Balboa was closed and rerouted under the bridge. As a result, early morning, northbound traffic on Morena was almost backed up to Baker Street.

There are now traffic lights at both ends of the bridge and this bottleneck has quickly become a labyrinth of idling vehicles and confused drivers… which will only get worse when the north Balboa offramp from Interstate 5 is completed and the Balboa trolley station is operational.

Regarding placement of these new traffic lights, Anthony Santacroce, Senior Public Information Officer for the City of San Diego, said, “New traffic signal implementation follows careful traffic study. Traffic signals are not arbitrarily installed without consideration.”

He added that placement of the Balboa trolley stop is under the purview of the Metropolitan Transit System and possible traffic lights at Santa Fe Street and the Balboa north offramp would be controlled by CalTrans.

Morena – Balboa interchange from the west prior to recent installation of traffic light signals near the middle of Morena Boulevard at the top of the picture (photo by Chris O’Connell 9/23/15)

Construction projects have made Morena Boulevard very narrow and dangerous. Traffic is heavy and the safety of bicyclists is in jeopardy. Safe driving is predicated on anticipating the actions of other people on the road. When drivers are confused, their driving can become unpredictable and dangerous.

Engineering mistakes/miscalculations and political solutions are not easy to modify and correct.

Will Morena Boulevard turn into another headache like Clairemont Drive between Balboa and Clairemont Mesa Boulevard? Instead of four traffic lanes, will there be two traffic lanes and two bike lanes?

Some Clairemont residents believe this is part of a conspiracy to make driving so difficult that we all will be forced to pedal bicycles.

Email: Bill@ClairemontTimes.com

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