Clem Brown, Special Project Manager for the City of Del Mar
“Worst year ever” is how some residents described traffic congestion during the 2018 San Diego County Fair.
During a presentation to the City Council last month, fairgrounds officials agreed that traffic was a problem and noted that the worst days were clustered toward the end of the 26-day run.
What made those bad traffic days as bad as they were?
A number of factors, Katie Mueller, the fairgrounds’ chief operating officer, told the City Council. She reported that since 2012, the fairgrounds has lost 1,735 spaces to the San Dieguito River wetlands restoration. The fairgrounds’ top five days for traffic complaints were June 24, 29 and 30 and July 1 and 4 when attendance increased during the fair’s final stretch, with 32 percent of total attendance logged during the last seven days. Those were also the highest-volume days for on-site parking and shuttling from off-site lots at Horsepark, MiraCosta College, Torrey Pines and Canyon Crest Academy high schools. Mueller estimated that during this year’s fair, off-site lots diverted 83,000 vehicles from surface streets and the main parking lots. In addition, from June 29 through July 2, the Surf Cup soccer tournament was played on the fields at Via de la Valle and El Camino Real bringing in over 900 more cars per day and the great weather drew great numbers of people – and their automobiles – to Del Mar’s beaches.
Further complications: Construction on Interstate 5 created cut-through traffic and caused further delays, Mueller said. She blamed other delays on increased in-and-out traffic from ride-sharing services and the Waze app for adding to an increase in cut through traffic.
City Council members, in turn, asked fairgrounds representatives to do more to alert attendees when the main lots are full and to direct traffic to off-site lots. That effort could require lobbying CalTrans to provide more message signs along the freeway. Council members also asked for the fairgrounds’ leadership to improve communications with front-line traffic controllers to balance the movement of through-traffic with that of vehicles exiting the parking lots.
The roundabout on Jimmy Durante Boulevard at San Dieguito Drive is not contributing to congestion, city officials said, adding that gridlock would persist at the intersection even if it were controlled by signals, a stop sign or nothing at all.
Public safety representatives said protocols are in place so emergency vehicles can respond to calls when traffic is heavy.
The fairgrounds’ presentation on traffic concerns can be viewed here.