When a traffic expert is before the City Council for any reason, it’s as good a time as any to discuss the No. 1 concern of residents: the railroad crossing at Del Obispo Street.
So when Orange County Transportation Authority CEO Will Kempton came before San Juan Capistrano leaders Tuesday, ostensibly to discuss several projects in the city, the real focus was traffic on Del Obispo, either caused by
- The red light at the tracks, known as the to prevent traffic stopped at nearby intersections from backing up onto the tracks
- Gates down but no train passing by, known in San Juan Capo-lingo as the “ghost train”
“Mayor pro tem [John Taylor] and I were stopped by the and we were late, so we get to live through this, too,” Councilwoman Laura Freese said, adding that constituents stuck in traffic will sometimes call her, threatening to recall the entire council if nothing is done.
OCTA has been studying both problems, with the most recent attention given to the ghost train phenomenon, Kempton said.
“The study is nearly complete,” Kempton said, “We’re hoping to have the initial results at the end of this week.”
Among possible solutions to the ghost train problem is having trains approach the depot at slower speeds and making switch modifications, Kempton said, although he doesn’t expect any one solution to be the end-all.
Still, Kempton, he won’t give up.
“I’m absolutely committed to trying to fix this problem,” he said. “It’s an inconvenience to the residents, it makes little sense to me, and we want to do what we can to try and fix this problem.”
“If it doesn’t do something to something to alleviate the problem, it’s going back,” Kempton said. “We need a fix.”
Freese said she hopes the solution is “sooner, rather than later.”
Councilman Sam Allevato called the traffic on Del Obispo the “perfect storm.” Both traffic and ghost trains have been an issue for years, but the city’s widening of the Trabuco Creek bridge and the queue-cutter have only exacerbated the problem.
“Now it’s really gone to be especially annoying,” he said.
“Sincerely, I am really committed to resolving this issue,” Kempton responded. ”I’m on your side on this one.”
In Other News
In other business, the City Council:
- Heard from a resident, Rhen Kohan, who spoke out against SDG&E’s plans to upgrade the San Juan Capistrano at 30127 Camino Capistrano. “It’s just too big a change to too small a space of ground,” Kohan said.
- Honored four Eagle Scouts, Brandon Burger; Kevin Cotugno; Brendan Luke; and Ian Whelan, for their Eagle Scout projects, including organizational shelves for grade-school classrooms and music rooms in San Juan Capistrano.
- Recognized Gunnar Ohlund, an incoming freshman at San Diego State – who completed his own Eagle Scout project in February – for coming up with the name of the open space area formerly known as the Lemon Grove Site. Ohlund offered the winning recommendation of Reata Park and Events Center. He said he wanted to highlight the historic, cowboy nature of the town, and named the park Reata, Spanish for “lasso.”
- Voted 3-1, with Councilman Derek Reeve opposed, to approve the continuation of funding for consulting services for the Gang Prevention Services in Partnership through Pepperdine University. Although most of the council favors the work done by the , they require more quantitative and throughout statistics of the success rate of the service in the near future.
- Took an up-close look at an Olympic torch Pearl Harbor and World War II Navy veteran Les Blair, a San Juan Capistrano resident, carried down Pacific Coast Highway in 1996 as part of the Atlantic Olympics relay.