Boundary to Progress
Why won’t Del Rey Oaks officials open South Boundary Road?
Thursday, June 9, 2005
Del Rey Oaks’ population is just under 2,000. Its land area measures about a half square mile. But in the upcoming months, Del Rey Oaks’ political power may be big.
With construction on Highway 68 slated for this summer, the tiny city holds the key to alleviating a traffic nightmare. And it’s literally locked. South Boundary Road, under the jurisdiction of Del Rey Oaks, remains padlocked and closed to public traffic.
Because of a small connector road, Rancho Saucito Lane, South Boundary provides a back door into the Ryan Ranch office park and a detour around rush-hour gridlock on Highway 68.
When construction begins to widen Highway 68 to four lanes between Ragsdale Drive and Highway 218 in July, the now off-limits road will open to relieve congestion for the duration of the six-month project. Well, sort of.
“[Del Rey Oaks officials] intend to close and lock that gate between 8pm and 4am,” says Rich Deal, a traffic engineer for the city of Monterey.
Deal says when construction plans were made, Monterey had to compromise with Del Rey Oaks’ City Council just to get South Boundary open during the day.
“In order to build this project, we have to close Ragsdale Drive, so we needed another way into Ryan Ranch,” Deal says. “We took whatever they would give us. Del Rey Oaks’ Mayor [Joseph P. Russell] did not want any traffic on South Boundary Road.”
These time restrictions placed on South Boundary Road by Del Rey Oaks officials will only make the situation worse, Deal says.
“The public can’t count on just normal business hours for businesses like FedEx, UPS and the community hospital. My fear is that people won’t use it because of the restrictions. So, the very problem we’re trying to solve, we might actually make worse.”
Deal and others want to see South Boundary Road open on a permanent basis.
“That seems like the most responsible thing to do,” he says.
Gill Campbell, general manager of Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, agrees.
“It’s open for us for race events,” Campbell says. “We pay insurance and police services for the use of the road to Del Rey Oaks.”
Del Rey Oaks city officials’ reasoning for restricting the road remains unknown. City Manager Ron Langford’s not talking. He refused an interview with the Weekly for this story.
Seven attempts were made to speak with Langford about South Boundary’s closure, including six phone requests for an interview, and one in-person attempt at his office.
A nearby business owner says the road closure comes down to cash.
“I think Del Rey Oaks is holding everyone hostage for money,” says Bill Dalhamer, owner of Monterey Sanitary Supply. Dalhamer’s janitorial supplies company was the second business to call Ryan Ranch home.
Del Rey Oaks owes Monterey $264,799 in fire protection services.
“They fell behind in protection services with us, but they’re now contracted to Seaside,” says Fred Meurer, Monterey’s city manager. “It’s closer and more cost effective for them. It makes sense.”
When asked if Del Rey Oaks tried to use South Boundary Road as a bargaining chip—a clean tab with Monterey in exchange for a complete opening of the road—Meurer demurs.
“I’ve heard that rumor, though they’ve never presented it to me,” he says, adding that Del Rey Oaks will pay its debt to Monterey through a slow payment plan.
Still, Meurer says, he thinks Del Rey Oaks’ refusal to open the road comes down to money.
“I think they have concerns about traffic as well as maintainingit on such a low budget. [Monterey] offered to open it and assume responsibility for it, but it’s in their jurisdiction.”
Opening South Boundary Road, if only for six months during construction, might be an important first step in negotiating a permanent opening, Meurer says. “It will give [Del Rey Oaks] the opportunity to see that the negative effects of the road opening will be okay.”
“I was assured that traffic would not be an issue in 1988,” Bill Dalhamer says. “It’s deplorable what’s happened here. All three cities’ representatives, Seaside, Monterey and Del Rey Oaks, should be impeached.”
Dalhamer says that by keeping the road closed, city representatives are not looking out for the best interest of their constituents.
“I would invite all of these cities’ representatives to come out here at 7am and try to make a left hand turn onto Ragsdale Drive,” he says.
The Highway 68 construction does include building a traffic signal at Ragsdale Drive. To business owners
and workers at Ryan Ranch, it’s a highly-anticipated addition to thisdangerous and slow-moving intersection.
Dalhamer says he doesn’t understand why residents aren’t fuming about the traffic pattern into Ryan Ranch since a majority of the office park’s employees and customers come from Seaside, Monterey and Del Rey Oaks.
“The answer is here,” he says, “and the answer is South Boundary.”