Saddleback Ranch Road Traffic Calming Project

The Saddleback Ranch Road project is a construction project on Saddleback Ranch Road, from Millwood Road to Ridgeline Road. This project was designed based on a series of community meetings to address concerns regarding speeding, site distance, and safety on Saddleback Ranch Road. Consequently, a number of significant traffic calming measures – consistent with traffic safety standards - were implemented to enhance public safety as part of the final design. To view the Saddleback Ranch Road Concept Plan, click here.

The City has received recent feedback from residents who have expressed various concerns over the improvements. Our goal is to address the concerns while continuing to preserve the improvements that help calm the traffic, reduce speeds, and make access easier  onto Saddleback Ranch Road from the side streets. Work on the project hasn’t stopped, and we are committed to delivering a safe, improved Saddleback Ranch Road that addresses the concerns of the residents from 2012 as well as the present. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Recent construction activities associated with the Saddleback Ranch Road Traffic Calming Project have generated some questions throughout the community. In response, staff has prepared the following Frequently Asked Questions.

Saddleback Ranch Road Traffic Calming Project Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Did the residents of Portola Hills participate in the decision making process to install traffic calming on Saddleback Ranch Road?

A: Yes. Beginning in 2012, the City engaged with the community to gather feedback associated with the Portola Center development project and traffic impacts in particular. The community voiced concerns about traffic safety and traffic speeds in particular along Saddleback Ranch Road.  In addition to requesting feedback via Ask Lake Forest, emails, phone calls, and written correspondence, the City hired an independent traffic engineer to facilitate community outreach through a series of community workshops held in October, November, and December of 2012. The feedback from the community shaped the traffic calming measures being implemented today on Saddleback Ranch Road. 

From these discussions came a neighborhood consensus to implement traffic calming measures on Saddleback Road from Millwood Road to Ridgeline Road.

Q: What is the timeline of events for this project?

June 14, 2012

Portola Center - Initial Study Letter Sent to Residents within 1,000 feet

June 15, 2012

Portola Center - Initial Study released for Public Review

July 10, 2012

Portola Center - Notice of Preparation Public Scoping Meeting

July 12, 2012

Portola Center - Planning Commission Workshop


September 1, 2012
 
Mailer sent to Residents advertising Initial Portola Hills Traffic Workshop for September 12, 2012

September 12, 2012

Initial Portola Hills Traffic Workshop

September 27, 2012

Portola Center - Planning Commission Workshop

 
October 12, 2012

Mailer sent to Residents advertising Second Portola Hills Traffic Workshop for October 22, 2012
 

October 16, 2012

City Council Meeting – Stantec Contract Amendment - Portola Center Traffic Consulting Services


October 18, 2012
 
Mailer sent to Residents rescheduling Second Portola Hills Traffic Workshop for November 15, 2012
  

November 15, 2012

Second Portola Hills Traffic Workshop

December 12, 2012

Third Portola Hills Traffic Workshop

January 10, 2013

Portola Center - Planning Commission Workshop

May 23, 2013

Portola Center - Planning Commission Workshop

August 6, 2013

City Council Meeting – Saddleback Ranch Road Preliminary Design

March 26, 2014

E-mail of Saddleback Ranch Road Preliminary Design (361 sent)

April 15, 2014

City Council Meeting – Saddleback Ranch Road Final Design

May 6, 2014

Portola Hills 1 HOA Meeting (attended by City staff)

June 26, 2014

Meeting w/ Portola Hills Elementary School principal & maintenance staff (attended by City staff)

July 9, 2014

Portola Hills 2 HOA Meeting (attended by City staff)

November 4, 2014

Portola Hills 1 HOA Meeting (attended by City staff)

November 12, 2014

Portola Hills 2 HOA Meeting (attended by City staff)

January 12, 2015

Bella Palermo HOA Meeting (attended by City staff)

April 3, 2015

Project Advertised for Construction

May 19, 2015

City Council Meeting - Construction Contract Award for Saddleback Ranch Road Improvements

June 26, 2015

Notice to Proceed for Saddleback Ranch Road Improvements

October 21, 2015

Saddleback Ranch Road Traffic Calming Project Update Postcard sent to the Portola Hills community


October 26, 2015

Project Modifications Presented to Board Members from Six Homeowners Associations in Portola Hills
 
 
October 27, 2015

Project Update Email Distributed to Mailing List Regarding Medians and Striping
 
 
November 5, 2015

Project Update Email Distributed to Mailing List Regarding Medians and Bike Lanes

 
 
November 10, 2015

Project Update Email Distributed to Mailing List Regarding Draft Modified Plans and Upcoming Community Open Houses

 
November 12, 2015
 
Project Update Email Distributed to Mailing List Regarding Revised Plans.  First Community Open House Held at Lake Forest City Hall
 
  
November 13, 2015
 
 
Second Community Open House Held at Lake Forest City Hall
  
November 16, 2015
 
 
Third Community Open House Held at Lake Forest City Hall
 
November 24, 2015
 
Project Update Email Distributed to Mailing List Regarding Revised Plans to Remove One median and to narrow the remaining medians.


December 10, 2015
 
Project Update Email Distributed to Mailing List Regarding Median Curbs.
 

 December 16, 2015

Project Update Email Distributed to Mailing List Regarding Completed Modifications.

 
December 23, 2015

Project Update Email Distributed to Mailing List Regarding Median Installation.
 
 
January 14, 2016

 
Project Update Email Distributed to Mailing List Regarding Completed Installations and Reconstruction Work.

 
January 21, 2016

 
Project Update Email Distributed to Mailing List Regarding Completed Median Repavement, and Upcoming Installations and Improvements. 

 
February 9, 2016


Project Update Email Distributed to Mailing List Regarding Improvements within Medians and Slurry Sealing. 

 
February 11, 2016

 
Project Update Email Distributed to Mailing List Regarding Temporary Traffic Delays Due to Construction. 

 
February 19, 2016

 
Project Update Email Distributed to Mailing List Regarding Completed Slurry Sealing and Scheduled Installations. 

 

Q: Who came up with the design and what studies were done for this project?

A: The City hired a professional traffic engineering consulting firm, Stantec, to collect and analyze data and design the traffic calming features. The consultant completed extensive traffic counts and field measurements, conducted field observations, met with school officials, and held public meetings to fully document the existing traffic patterns and conditions in the area.  Based on the analyses, Stantec developed a final design.

Q: What is the goal of traffic calming?

A: The traffic calming measures being implemented on Saddleback Ranch Road are designed to work together to: (1) cause subtle changes in the path of travel for through traffic, and (2) to narrow the travel lanes. These restrictive lanes are designed to slow traffic down, because drivers tend to drive slower in narrower, non-linear lanes. The restrictive lanes will also require drivers and bicyclists to share the road in accordance with State law in many areas, which can also act as a constraint on speed.

Q: What types of traffic calming measures are being constructed?

A: The traffic calming measures being used on this project include raised and painted medians, bulb-outs at intersections, diverter medians to guide drivers making right turns and other striping and signing changes.

Q: Why did they install the bulb out curbs at some intersections?

A: Many of the residents on the side streets had expressed concerns about limited sight distance as they attempted to turn onto Saddleback Road. The bulb out curbs provide an opportunity for drivers on the side streets to pull further forward into a protected area to improve sight distance and make it easier and safer to make these turns. In addition, the bulb out curbs serve as part of the traffic calming solution by causing subtle changes in the path of travel for through traffic and narrowing the travel lanes.

Q: Are the improvements limited to concrete and asphalt?

A: The project includes more than just concrete and asphalt. There will be landscaping installed in medians and near the bulb-outs to help provide a more aesthetic environment, while still retaining the benefits of the traffic calming measures.

Q: When is the construction expected to be completed?

A: The construction work began in July 2015 and is expected to continue through January 2016.

Q: Saddleback Ranch Road is used by bicyclists in the area. How will this project affect bicyclists?

A: Saddleback Ranch Road is considered a bike route because it is used by road cyclists and mountain bikers in the area. Although there were never striped bike lanes on Saddleback, there were wider segments of the roadway that allowed for bikes and vehicles to travel side-by-side. With the addition of the traffic calming measures, there are now certain segments of the roadway where bikes and vehicles may have to travel in single file formation. Bikes are considered vehicles by the vehicles code and therefore have the same rights and responsibilities as drivers of vehicles.

Q: Why didn’t the City install striped bike lanes?

A: In order to try to achieve the primary goal of slowing and calming traffic, it is necessary to substantially narrow the travel lanes. Even if there was space to install bike lanes (which are usually about 5-8 feet wide), doing so for any extended period would provide drivers with a sense of excess width and would, at a minimum, significantly reduce the benefits of the overall traffic calming.  Where the lanes are confined by the medians and curbs (physical constraints on both sides), the travel lanes are about 13 feet wide. Although these are not ideal conditions for a bike and vehicle to share the lane, a slower moving vehicle can legally and safely pass a bicycle in this space under the right conditions. For instance, if a bike is within 3 feet of the curb this would leave about 10 feet for the car to pass. With the average vehicle being about 6 to 6 ½ feet wide and needing to allow 3 feet between the vehicle and the bike there is at least potentially an opportunity for a vehicle to pass. However, you should always remember that bikes have the same rights as vehicles and therefore bicyclists can use more of the lane, if they consider it necessary.  

Q: What was changed in front of Portola Hills Elementary School?

A: A dedicated left turn lane into the school was installed along with a storage lane for vehicles exiting the school. In addition, a dedicated right turn lane was installed into the school for northbound Saddleback. The City has received several positive comments about the improvements in the traffic conditions since the changes were implemented.

Q: Is the speed limit going to change with the new traffic calming measures?

A: Any time there is a substantial change to a roadway, a new Engineering and Traffic study (commonly known as a speed study) is conducted to see if the speed limit should be changed. Since the speed limit is set based on how actual drivers use the street, the City cannot conduct a new survey to determine if the speed limit should be changed until the roadway is fully open and traffic has adjusted to the conditions (usually in about 30-60 days).

Q: Has the project reduced the number of through lanes on Saddleback Ranch Road?

A: No. Saddleback Ranch Road from Millwood to Ridgeline basically had one through lane in each direction along with some right turn lanes and merging lanes before the current project. Once the project is complete there will still be one through lane in each direction, but there will be fewer and/or shorter right turn and merging lanes.

Q: Are the travel lanes closer to the sidewalk now? 

A: The sidewalks have always been adjacent to the street along Saddleback Ranch Road. However, the travel lanes are now somewhat closer to the sidewalk in some areas. Pedestrians must always exercise appropriate caution when walking adjacent to the street, especially when vehicles are traveling closer to the sidewalk. Parents have a special responsibility and need to guide and instruct their children on how to safely use the sidewalk (walk single file where necessary, no pushing or shoving that might result in someone having to step into the street, etc.…). 

Q: During the big rain storm in early September the road flooded in many places. Is this going to happen every time it rains? 

A: A couple factors affected the drainage on that day. The one that had the most impact is that the contractor forgot to remove filter fabric and sandbags that were placed over the catch basins (the inlets that the water flows into) to prevent construction debris from getting into the storm drain. Since the water could not get into the underground drainage system, the street then had to act as the storm drain, which caused localized flooding. The other major factor was the intensity of the storm system. A lot of rain fell in a very short period of time on that day. Combine blocked catch basins and unusually intense rain and you can see why the street experienced flooding for a short period. As designed, the storm drain system will accommodate a large amount of water without flooding. So this condition is not likely to be repeated, even if we get some intense rainfall this winter.

Q: Where can I get more information or provide feedback to the City?

A: You can contact the City at Ask Lake Forest to submit comments and questions. You can also contact the Public Works Department by telephone at (949) 461-3400 or Email the City’s Traffic Engineer, Dave Rogers or the project manager, Doug Erdman

Q: What happens in the event of an evacuation?

A: If area residents were asked to evacuate, the Orange County Sheriff’s department would guide the evacuation in accordance with their existing protocols, which could include utilizing both sides of the roadways in the case of an emergency.