Gas Tax Funds to be used on rail trail expansion

Gas Tax Funds to be used on rail trail expansion
Councilmember Keith Blackburn, center, with Councilmembers Lorraine Wood, left, and Farrah Douglas listen to city staff’s reasoning for using Gas Tax Funds for expansion of the Coastal Rail Trail and added roundabout at the May 28 meeting. Photo by Rachel Stine

CARLSBAD — City Council approved nearly $800,000 in funds to modify and expand a portion of Carlsbad’s Coastal Rail Trail at its May 28 meeting. 

As a whole, the Coastal Rail Trail extends from the San Luis Rey River in Oceanside to the Santa Fe Depot in San Diego.

The city’s project will connect the paved, wheelchair accessible Coastal Rail Trail in Carlsbad at Oak Avenue to the Coastal Rail Trail in Oceanside at Eaton Street, and is intended to improve bicycle and pedestrian access in the cities, according to the project report. The connection will run south from Eaton Street along Carlsbad Boulevard across the Buena Vista Lagoon and continue south down State Street to Oak Avenue.

The project will involve reducing the lanes along Carlsbad Boulevard over the Buena Vista Lagoon to one northbound and one southbound lane to make room for bike lanes and a sidewalk, explained Jon Schauble, a city project engineer. It will also include adding a roundabout at the Carlsbad Boulevard and State Street intersection.

“Our traffic engineer decided that (the roundabout) would be a great feature to add because it would enhance safety of that intersection,” said Schauble.

Carlsbad received $800,000 in an Active Transportation Grant from SANDAG in 2012, and City Council voted at this week’s meeting to allocate $749,000 in matching funds to cover the remaining cost of the project. The trail expansion and roundabout will cost about $1.55 million total, according to engineer’s estimates.

The city’s matching funds will come from Gas Tax Funds.

Carlsbad resident George Tai spoke at the City Council meeting to protest the use of Gas Tax Funds on what he saw as a bicycle and pedestrian trail project.

“Pedestrians and bikers don’t pay gas taxes, but auto-owners do. This is another example of redistribution of our tax dollars away from intended uses,” he said.

Councilmember Keith Blackburn asked for clarification about why Gas Tax Funds were selected, saying, “Mr. Tai has a good point (about) redirecting funds from one to another.”

Public Works Director Skip Hammann explained that staff selected Gas Tax Funds because the project will improve safety for pedestrians and motorists as well, particularly with the roundabout.

City staff is still waiting to obtain NEPA environmental clearance from Caltrans and US Fish and Wildlife for the project. Once that is received, staff will return before City Council for authorization to request bids for the project.



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