We attended several public planning meetings at the city a few years ago, during which we were told that the four proposed railroad crossings would cost an estimated $1 million each.
Suggestions by the public to consider lowering the tracks below grade, as has been done in Solana Beach, or having safe pedestrian crossings at grade level, were rejected out of hand because, we were told, neither SANDAG nor the North County Transit District (“NCTD”) would support these alternatives. The only reason given was that it would be cost prohibitive, but no cost estimates were ever provided. So much for public input.
Since your story indicated that there is no funding source identified for the remaining three crossings, and now that we have had a long-overdue regime change in the city of Encinitas, including a change in our representation at SANDAG and NCTD, the city has an opportunity to take another look at these projects. Now that we know that the cost estimate for the first crossing proved to be wildly optimistic, lowering the tracks may now be a more viable alternative.
Not only is the railroad an impediment to people who patronize the businesses on Highway 101, go to and from the beach, and use the bus stops on 101 and Vulcan Avenue provided by the same NCTD, there are other problems rarely discussed. For one, NCTD’s idea of maintaining the corridor is to scrape everything down to bare dirt resulting in what looks like a run-down industrial zone running through nearly the entire city of Encinitas. Presumably, NCTD has legitimate concerns about fire and visibility, but this practice also results in visual blight and clouds of dirt that frequently blow into the adjacent residential areas whenever one of the high speed trains goes through.
Another problem is the train horns. It is our understanding that, (1) the federal government significantly increased the decibel levels a year couple of years ago for some unknown reason, and (2) that the trains are supposed to start blowing their horn 1/4 mile from the crossings, but, at least for those south bound at Leucadia Boulevard, they often start well over 1/2 mile away.
If the railroad were dropped below grade from the Batiquitos Lagoon to Encinitas Boulevard, it could be left at grade through downtown to accommodate the existing station, then lowered again through the southern part of Old Encinitas and Cardiff, as a number of people suggested in the earlier public meetings. Virtually the entire right of way could eventually be developed into a linear park with safe biking and walking trails. No more dust, no more train horns at all hours of the night and day, no more blight, and a new, safe trail system for residents and visitors alike that we could all take pride in.
This would still require pedestrian overpasses, but they would be lower, less intrusive, and probably considerably less expensive than the enormous structures that will be needed to extend over the double-decked coaster cars. (We expect that underpasses may not be feasible at the three remaining crossings due to the flat topography at each location.)
You can see for yourself what we’re talking about — just drive south to Solana Beach and see what they’ve been able to accomplish. If this can be done in Solana Beach, why can’t we do it here in Encinitas?
Dave and Kathy Billings are Leucadia residents.