ENCINITAS — During an open house last week introducing the Encinitas “rail trail,” reoccurring worries about fencing cropped up.
In September, the SANDAG board of directors approved funding for the local rail trail — a citywide path alongside the train tracks for cyclists and pedestrians. Many at the meeting welcomed the project, but also brought concerns over NCTD requiring fencing near portions of the rail trail.
Resident John Gjata said fencing could block people from crossing the train tracks to access the coast.
“That’s going to be a big hurdle you’re facing, because right now, they may not be legal crossings, but they are de facto crossings that people use every day all along the corridor,” Gjata said.
Chris Carterette, active transportation planner with SANDAG, said the location and need for fencing hasn’t been determined. But he hopes to minimize it.
“My goal is to have the project designed and constructed with as little fencing as possible, and to keep the path as far away from the tracks as possible,” Carterette said.
Carterette noted that NCTD, the railway owner, would rule on the need for fencing for rail trail that runs near the tracks. Recently, after negotiations, NCTD agreed to a small fence for the city’s first constructed sliver of rail trail near the Santa Fe pedestrian undercrossing.
“It would be my hope if in the event we’re required to construct (fencing), it would be like that,” Carterette said.
Several residents commented that the Santa Fe fencing is more aesthetically pleasing than previous plans calling for a tall chain link fence near the rail trail, but added that they’d prefer fencing to be avoided altogether to protect beach access.
Beyond fencing, the transit planners and residents discussed other matters related to the rail trail during the meeting.
Chris Kluth, active transportation program manager with SANDAG, said the rail trail is about getting people of all ages to walk and bike by giving them a safe route to do so.
A tentative map at the meeting illustrated the rail trail running east of the tracks and dipping west toward Coast Highway 101 in Cardiff.
Resident Catherine Blakespear said the rail trail aims to “take everyday people to everyday places.” Thus, she said perhaps the rail trail shouldn’t “dump into busy” Coast Highway 101.
“I think the experience you’re trying to create and the reason you’re building the bike path is so that people can go places and they don’t feel in danger,” Blakespear said.
Two residents brought up the issue of lighting for the rail trail. And in response, Carterette said it hasn’t been decided whether that would be necessary.
The Encinitas rail trail will be built in four segments. The meeting last week focused on the first portion: Chesterfield Drive to E Street.
The rail trail will be concrete and 14 feet wide in most sections, but as narrow as 8 to 10 feet in others. Most of the trail will go east of the railroad tracks, though planning is in the early stages, SANDAG officials have stated.
$11.9 million from SANDAG’s Regional Bike Plan Early Action Program will pay for the rail trail from the Solana Beach city limits to Leucadia Boulevard.
The early action program is funded by TransNet, the regional half-cent sales tax for transportation that was approved by county voters.
The segment from Leucadia Boulevard to the southern tip of Carlsbad is expected to cost $6.6 million. SANDAG and the city have yet to identify funding to cover the expense; that portion wasn’t included in the Regional Bike Plan Early Action Program funding.
If all goes as planned, construction would begin on the Chesterfield Drive to E Street portion in two years. The entire Encinitas rail trail could be finished by 2023, though that’s a loose timeline.
SANDAG envisions the rail trail one day covering the Santa Fe depot in downtown San Diego to Oceanside.
Future community workshops dates on the Encinitas rail trail haven’t been set.