TAC recommends weight limit on Pala Temecula Road

The county’s Traffic Advisory Committee (TAC) has recommended a seven-ton weight limit on Pala Temecula Road.

The TAC’s unanimous Sept. 14 vote also called for a report to the TAC after one year to determine the effect of advisory length warning signs which have been posted as an interim measure. No length restriction was recommended by the TAC. The TAC’s recommendation may be ratified, rejected, or modified by the San Diego County Board of Supervisors, who are scheduled to hear the recommendation Dec. 5.

The weight limit covers Pala Temecula Road for 5.0 miles from Pala Mission Road to the Riverside County line. The road is classified as a light collector on the county’s Mobility Element and ranges in width from 23 to 25 feet wide. The first 680 feet north of Pala Mission Road front a California Vehicle Code business district which triggers an automatic 25 mph speed limit. From the end of the business district to 320 feet south of Milepost 2, the speed limit is 45 mph. A straighter section of road from 320 feet south of Milepost 2 to the county line and beyond allows for a 55 mph speed limit.

A traffic survey taken south of Arouba Road from June 27, 2012, to July 1, 2012, indicated an two-way traffic volume of 6,588 vehicles on Wednesday, June 27 from 8:55 a.m. to midnight, 8,251 vehicles on Thursday, June 28, 9,135 vehicles on Friday, June 29, 10,028 vehicles on Saturday, June 30, and 3,993 vehicles on Sunday, July 1, prior to 5:54 p.m.

An October 2003 survey south of Arouba Road had a two-way average daily volume of 6,070 vehicles. The October 2003 survey also indicated an average volume of 5,860 vehicles north of Pala Mission Road, where an August 1995 survey resulted in an average volume of 3,070 vehicles and a September 1990 survey had an average volume of 2,300 vehicles. Pala Casino opened in April 2001 while Pechanga Casino, which can be accessed from Pala Temecula Road, opened in a temporary building in July 1995 and expanded to its current facility in June 2002.

The June 2012 traffic survey was broken down by type of vehicle. A majority of the vehicles were passenger cars while other non-bus vehicles (such as pickup trucks, vans, and motorhomes) with two axles and four wheels comprised the next largest volume followed by two-axle six-tire vehicles and then motorcycles. Buses comprised the next-largest volume with 66 on June 27, 87 on June 28, 82 on June 29, 93 on June 30, and 42 during the July 1 data collection.

Five-axle single-trailer trucks accounted for 65 June 27 vehicles, 74 June 28 trips, 91 June 28 vehicles, 44 June 30 vehicles, and 19 July 1 trips. Three-axle single unit trucks or recreational vehicles included 20 June 27, 17 June 28, 24 June 29, 18 June 30, and 2 counted July 1. Multiple trailers with five or fewer axles were counted 16 times June 27, 20 times June 28, 19 times June 29, and 11 times June 30.

Multiple trailers with at least seven axles were included five times June 27, six times June 28, eight times June 29, and four times June 30. Multiple trailers with six axles crossed the survey point seven times June 27, four times June 28, and twice June 30. Two single trailers with at least six axles traveled the road June 28 while four such vehicles were counted June 29.

The request for a weight or length limit was initiated by the county’s Department of Public Works, whose duties include guardrail repair. DPW work crews not only noted the frequency of guardrails needing to be replaced but also the lack of room they have to replace those guardrails. The guardrails are 30 inches high, so a truck’s body will not be damaged if its wheels go against the guardrail. Buses have lower wheelbases and could incur body damage from contact with the guardrail.

Centerline rumble strips were installed on Pala Temecula Road in 2011. Because the issue before the TAC involved a weight or length limit, only accidents involving large commercial vehicles were included in the collision report. Seven such collisions, none of which involved injury, took place between March 1, 2007, and March 1, 2012.

The weight limit would force trucks exceeding seven tons to take State Route 76 to Interstate 15, increasing mileage from about 9 to 18 and increasing time from about 15 to 22 minutes. Although Old Highway 395 in San Diego County has no weight limit, Rainbow Canyon Road in Riverside County has a seven-ton limit so the Pala Temecula Road weight limit would not lead to trucks using Old Highway 395 to bypass the interstate.

“It’s the best of two bad choices,” said Pala Pauma Community Sponsor Group chair Charles Mathews, who noted that Highway 76 isn’t as steep as Pala Temecula Road.

Because Highway 76 has a 40-foot length limit, a length limit for buses on Pala Temecula Road would not be feasible. However, most buses do not exceed 45 feet in length and Mathews told the TAC that a 45-foot length limit was reasonable. In addition to casino buses serving Pala and Pechanga, school buses also use Pala Temecula Road.

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