Rolling Encinitas forward with the Coastal Rail Trail

The new Coastal Rail Trail along San Elijo Avenue will connect our communities along the rail corridor, providing safer and more accessible routes for walking or biking to the beach and town centers.

The project includes long-overdue improvements the city has been contemplating for years. In addition to the rail trail, the Encinitas City Council has accelerated building a Montgomery Avenue pedestrian crossing at-grade over the railroad tracks, along with a traffic light and crosswalk across Highway 101. We are also working to quiet the train horns at both the new Montgomery crossing and Chesterfield Avenue.

All these moving parts have created great debate, with some proposing that a preferred alternative is to leave the rail corridor alone and just improve the bike and pedestrian facilities that already exist on Highway 101. The three City Councilmembers who support the combination of projects (Tony Kranz, Catherine S. Blakespear and Lisa Shaffer) feel strongly that the right location for the trail is east of the tracks, on the side where people live. This placement will create a new walking and biking corridor that doesn’t currently exist.

To us, the benefits of the combined projects are clear: significant road and safety improvements at Chesterfield, a legal and safe crossing at Montgomery providing beach access, a paved bike path and decomposed granite running trail between Chesterfield and G Street, improved parking along San Elijo and across from Cardiff School, and the pursuit of a quiet zone throughout the entire corridor to permanently quiet train horns (like the quiet zones throughout downtown San Diego). The quiet zone alone will dramatically improve the quality of life for hundreds of residents who live near the tracks and tolerate train blasts at all hours of the day and night.

While the rail corridor in its undeveloped state has many lovely qualities, it does not adequately serve most residents. In many long stretches, pedestrians and bikers are mixing with cars in an unimproved dirt parking lot next to a steep bluff and a busy road. Walking, riding, or pushing a stroller there is not just unsafe, it’s unpleasant. We can do better.

In building the rail trail, the sand dunes to the south will be preserved, many of the trees will remain, and great care is being taken to integrate the trail into the existing natural environment.

Infrastructure projects always come with trade-offs and cost money. One tradeoff, which the railroad requires, is the installation of a 4-foot post and cable fence. While we wish this wasn’t required, no city has been able to avoid installation of a fence when improving the rail corridor.

Regarding the costs, the city is pursing these improvements in the most cost effective way possible. About $5.1 million of “use it or lose it” regional money is being paired with about $1.5 million of city money. There is no better or more cost-effective approach.

We are excited about this project that will provide better connectivity between residents throughout the city, especially in Cardiff and historic Encinitas. We believe the Coastal Rail Trail will become an Encinitas gem that we can all enjoy together.

Catherine S. Blakespear and Tony Kranz are Encinitas City Councilmembers who can be reached at cblakespear@encinitasca.gov and tkranz@encinitasca.gov. For more information please visit cardiffrailtrail.com/ or keepsandiegomoving.com/RegionalBikeProjects/coastal_rail_trail_FAQ.aspx

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