Cardiff community weighs in on rail trail fencing, lighting

Cardiff community weighs in on rail trail fencing, lighting
A pedestrian walks along the first sliver of the Encinitas rail trail near the Santa Fe undercrossing. In response to residents’ concerns, planning officials would like to find a balance that minimizes rail trail fencing, without eliminating parking. Photo by Jared Whitlock

ENCINITAS — Should the rail trail run next to the train tracks or be placed a bit further east, next to San Elijo Avenue?

This is one of the questions residents were asked during a workshop on Tuesday night to gather input on the Cardiff portion of the rail trail — a citywide path for cyclists and pedestrians parallel to the train tracks.

Depending on where the rail trail goes, it could trigger a fence, which residents expressed long-standing opposition to.

NCTD, the railway owner, has stated fencing will be required for parts of the path that are within roughly 50 feet of the tracks.

Resident Julie Thunder said locating the rail trail closer to San Elijo Avenue would stay outside the 50-foot zone and preserve the natural habitat.

“Some parts of the habitat are how it looked 100, even 200 years ago — it’s important,” Thunder said.

But other residents said that approach would eliminate dirt-lot parking on San Elijo Avenue.

“We’re caught between a rock and a hard place in a way,” said Chris Carterette, active transportation planner with SANDAG.

However, Carterette expressed optimism that transit planners and the community could find a compromise that minimizes fencing while maintaining parking.

A tentative map shows the rail trail running east of the tracks throughout most of Cardiff and dipping west at Chesterfield Drive and Coast Highway 101, which would require redesigning that intersection.

It won’t be possible to locate the rail trail more than 50 feet from the tracks in some parts of the community due to existing development, Carterette noted. At those spots, fencing would look similar to the small post-and-cable fence at the city’s first sliver of rail trail near the Santa Fe pedestrian undercrossing.

Rail trail width, lighting and construction materials were also discussed at the workshop.

One alternative calls for a 14-foot wide rail trail, with eight feet of that dedicated to a multi-use path, four feet for a footpath and a two-foot shoulder for passing. A different option would set aside 19 feet for the rail trail, allowing for a wider multi-use path.

“Some people might think that’s too wide, so what we want is to get more feedback,” Carterette said.

Input from the workshop will be incorporated into design plans, and those will go before the community for additional feedback sometime this spring.

Yet another question before residents: should the rail trail be lit?

Several residents at the meeting said nighttime lighting could overwhelm homes in proximity to the path.

If residents agree on lighting for the rail trail, Carterette said it would be environmentally sensitive and “as unobtrusive as possible.”

SANDAG also wants to gauge whether the community prefers the rail trail to be entirely paved, or if part of it should include room for a natural surface path.

Chris Kluth, active transportation manager with SANDAG, noted research shows most people are interested in biking, but they feel uncomfortable pedaling along Coast Highway 101 and other busy roads.

The rail trail, because it’s a separated path, will be a key piece in getting more residents biking, Kluth said.

He said that in addition to safety, it would promote economic development, because bike and pedestrian traffic is more likely to stop at local businesses than cars speeding along.

$11.9 million from SANDAG’s Regional Bike Plan Early Action Program will pay for the rail trail from Solana Beach to Leucadia Boulevard. TransNet, the regional half-cent sales tax for transporation, funds the early action program.

SANDAG’s goal is to start construction on the Chesterfield Drive to E Street portion in two years. And ultimately, the rail trail will run from the Santa Fe depot in downtown San Diego to Oceanside.

To give input on the project, email chris.carterette@sandag.org.

 

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