Carlsbad reviewing train track options

Carlsbad reviewing train track options
Traffic waits as the Surfliner train rolls by on Carlsbad Village Drive on Monday. The city of Carlsbad is continuing to study the feasibility of trenching the tracks and adding a second line. Photo by Steve Puterski

CARLSBAD — Nearly one year after a study was commissioned to study train track trenching in Carlsbad Village, the report is now being review by city and San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG) officials.

Glen Van Peski, Carlsbad’s director of economic development, said the report is being review internally and an economic study is also in the works. The economic report, which is coming at the city’s expense, is expected to be completed in the spring.

The heart of the issue is the feasibility of adding a double track and whether or not to trench, or lower, the rail lines. Trenching is the more costly of the options, Van Peski said, although it would increase public and emergency access to Carlsbad Boulevard. It is a similar plan to what Solana Beach did in the 1990s.

“The city wants to make sure the comparison between trenching and double tracking on the surface is just not looking at the cost to construct,” he explained.

Charles Stoll, director of land use and transportation planning for SANDAG, said no results or conclusions have been determined from the initial report. He said the focus is on the infrastructure of the proposed site and the obstacles for trenching.

Some of those include utilities, groundwater, soil composition, retaining walls and other technical issues.

“We supplied this administrative draft to the city for their review,” Stoll said. “The next step is to respond to any questions they may have. “Typically when we do these feasibility studies, we focus on the infrastructure and what’s being proposed to being built.”

While cost is an obstacle, and a big issue, the benefits of trenching are numerous, Van Peski said, including noise reduction, property values, emergency response, access to costal resources and public safety to name a few.

In addition, trenching the tracks opens up the possibility of extending several roads — Chestnut Street, Oak Street and others — to the west side of the current tracks.

“The city can do a couple of things after that,” Van Peski said of the economic study. “We can go after grants and other funding sources and we can start to set aside city funds. The city feels it’s important for the future of the Village to get the tracks in a trench. Once we have a true picture of the value and the difference in cost benefit, then we have to decide what the next step is.”

Regardless of trenching, adding another track will ease train congestion around the Village.

“While we are doing the double tracks, we would prefer not to put them on the surface,” Van Peski said. “As impactive a single-set of surface tracks is, double tracks are even more. There are a lot of points and we are just trying to make sure we are doing a fair comparison.”

The City Council approved $250,000 in funding last year to conduct the study as reports estimate a 50 percent increase in train traffic by 2030. The study covered a 1.1-mile stretch in the Village by adding a parallel track north of Pine Avenue through the Carlsbad Village Coaster Station, north under Carlsbad Boulevard and over the Buena Vista Lagoon and north into Oceanside just south of Eaton Street.

SANDAG also studied rail lines “at grade,” which means at the same level as roads. The section includes three at-grade road crossings at Carlsbad Village Drive and at Grand and Tamarack avenues.

“The feasibility study is looking at some of the physical issues,” Stoll added. “Trenching versus adding a second track at grade is going to be a big issue. That is obviously a big obstacle.”

While the benefits of trenching are numerous, Van Peski said the fate of the idea comes down to money.

“It’s dollars,” he said. “If it costs an extra $100 million, someone is going to say, ‘is it worth it?’”

Finally, Van Peski said if the tracks are trenched, it opens the possibility of putting a cover over the station and turning it into a public plaza. However, those options are not part of the study, he added, but rather an idea for the future.

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