Last week, Councilmembers Catherine Blakespear and Tony Kranz (Rolling Encinitas forward with the Coastal Rail Trail, Jan. 22) sought to justify their approval of the Coastal Rail Trail (CRT) along San Elijo/Vulcan Avenue. While the CRT is supposed to facilitate bike and pedestrian travel between our downtowns, the inconvenient truth is that it will only serve a limited number of local residents lucky enough to live nearby.
It will be enjoyed by few but funded by all. Coincidentally, Blakespear happens to live near the project.
Blakespear/Kranz point out that this segment of the CRT has been contemplated for years and will be the culmination of this decades-long effort.
The reality is they are peddling an idea that has been rejected many times with strong opposition from residents. Past city councils have respected the community’s wishes, but now we have a 3-2 council majority with a personal agenda and a willingness to disregard overwhelming community objections.
Months ago the city held CRT community workshops. The vast majority of the 100-plus attendees were against placing the trail through the Cardiff Rail Corridor, one of the last natural open spaces along our coast.
Because citizens asked, SANDAG crafted an alternative plan that aligned the CRT along Coast Highway. This alignment is millions cheaper and loved by the community. It’s also consistent with neighboring cities that have placed their CRT west of the railroad tracks.
And, as evidenced by the large amount of visitors we see along Coast Highway each day, it is clear where people prefer to be.
But, Blakespear/Kranz say we need to, “put the trail on the side of the tracks where people live.”
Superficially that sounds clever, but isn’t it better to put the path where most people want to walk and ride bikes — without question that’s along the bluffs with a view of the ocean, not next to trains speeding by.
A Coast Highway alignment will serve more residents, save millions of dollars, preserve beach access and parking, and save natural coastal habitat from being paved, lighted, curbed, and fenced.
Let’s take the grant money and create a true gem for our city along Coast Highway, an inviting walkway with viewpoints, benches, and geographic markers for all of Encinitas and our visitors to enjoy.
Blakespear/Kranz also state that they have “accelerated building an at-grade railroad crossing at Montgomery Avenue.” But they fail to mention three critical elements: (1) they are spending $600,000 of Encinitas tax dollars to study the feasibility of the at-grade crossing (approvals are rare); (2) the added cost of the “quiet zone” (again, approvals are rare) is estimated to add another $1 million; and (3) they have degraded our previously approved and widely supported under-crossing project which is a much safer alternative requiring no rain horns.
While the minority councilmembers (Gaspar and Muir) have stated that the existing natural trail in the Cardiff Rail Corridor expresses Cardiff’s unique community character, Blakespear/Kranz find it “unpleasant.” What is truly unpleasant is wasting taxpayer money, paving coastal open space, more train horns, and the loss of beach access and parking.
Joe Alkhas, Jennifer Benedict, Nancy Burns, Dave Gonyer, Michele Grad, Rich Kelso, Mary Klawiter, Scott and Pam Kyle, Jaime and Justin Machado, Rich Risner, Chris and Randi Swanner, Ed Thielicke, Katherine Thielicke, Kevin and Julie Thunder, Sean and Svenja Wright and 957 others who have sent letters of opposition via norailtrail.com.