ENCINITAS — A major rail undercrossing project is moving forward in Leucadia after the Encinitas City Council voted unanimously in support of it Oct. 30, but residents are urging the council to also pay attention to a stretch of the road they say is not being addressed.
The $10.2 million El Portal Pedestrian and Bicycle Undercrossing Project will construct a rail undercrossing near El Portal Street in Leucadia, providing a safe bicycle and pedestrian route between North Vulcan Avenue and North Coast Highway 101. The undercrossing will improve access to locations such as Paul Ecke Central Elementary School and businesses along North Coast Highway 101.
Mayor Catherine Blakespear said at the meeting the project was one of the city’s top three major capital improvement plans and she was excited to move it through.
“It’s moving forward to the next stage with SANDAG. That is also a thrilling development,” Blakespear said before the vote, which was part of other projects on the meeting’s consent calendar she was glad to approve, including an agreement the city has with Urban Corps to plant and maintain 600 trees throughout the city.
But a handful of speakers spoke out in oral communications prior to the consent calendar, appealing to the council to pay attention to the crossings on a stretch of road on Vulcan Avenue, between La Costa Avenue and Leucadia Boulevard.
“Specifically, today, which I view as a very tragic day for the community and for Leucadians, because there was another death today in Leucadia at the railroad track, and any one death is one death too many,” said Kris Ryan, a 20-year resident of Leucadia.
News reports confirm a man died in Leucadia that day after being struck by a train, while attempting to cross the tracks while the railroad crossing warning bells and flashing signals were activated.
Ryan said putting a crossing in that 1.4-mile stretch will provide a safe place for residents, visitors, tourists, and transients to cross the tracks safely.
“There is no safe place to cross from my home, to the businesses, to the beach on the other side of the 101,” she said, adding that the nearest crosswalks are a half a mile away, which force people to cross the street illegally.
June Honsberger, a teacher in Encinitas, said the beach crossing near her home is so unsafe she doesn’t let her kids walk that way.
“I make them cross the tracks because it is too dangerous,” Honsberger said. “There is no place to walk, you cannot ride your bike … there is not a stoplight, a crosswalk or a stop sign.”
She said the intersection is so bad, she’s even seen a car full of teenage boys drive up and hold out their own stop sign to stop oncoming cars.
“It’s absolutely ridiculous and they carry a stop sign in their car so they can just get across that intersection,” she said.
Another resident, Rebecca Ross, said she’d like to see some interim measures taken to make the intersection safer.
“Every other stretch of this town seems to have an area to walk down Vulcan except for ours,” she said.
The city’s director of development services, Brenda Wisneski, said staff has had a few private meetings about that intersection with some residents and council and they are trying to figure out a solution. Some solutions could include speed tables like the ones in other parts of the 101, a signal at La Costa and Vulcan, road striping to narrow lanes and slow traffic, additional signage for speeds, and a speed survey to see if the city can justify lowering the speeds on that roadway.
“So, yes, we’re hearing the public, it’s a very complicated area so we’re trying to figure out what we can do now and then what we should be doing in the future,” Wisneski said.
She said some funding has been set aside to do a study on the area, which would involve traffic calming measures and community input.
As for the approved El Portal Undercrossing, Wisneski said the project will break ground in July of next year.
Tawny McCray is a native San Diegan and graduate of San Diego State University. She has known she wanted to be a journalist since writing for her Jr. High School newspaper in 1991. She has worked at The Star News in Chula Vista, The San Diego Union Tribune and ABC 10News San Diego. She has recently freelanced for Scripps Ranch News and The Poway Eagle and is a longtime freelancer with creators.com. She is working on authoring books with her twin sister, Nyla. She and her husband have two kids and live in South Park.