The Don Breazeale and Associates study commissioned and shelved by the city of Encinitas in 2000 gives $152 million (2014 dollars) as the added cost of trenching the tracks through the city when they are doubled. That includes four ped/bike/vehicular crossings and eight ped/bike crossings in the 5.1 miles between the north side of the San Elijo Lagoon and the south side of the Batiquitos Lagoon.
Oddly, the study did not address Encinitas Boulevard. The rails and road there would essentially have to trade places. In 2014 dollars, the Lomas Santa Fe crossing in Solana Beach cost $23.4 million. Add that to Breazeale’s figure, and you have $175.4 million as a reasonably accurate estimate of trenching’s inclusive cost through our city.
Funding would come by reallocating part of the $6.5 billion SANDAG and CalTrans say they will spend in the North Coast transportation corridor between now and 2040.
The Carlsbad City Council recently voted to spend up to $250,000 for an economic study that will compare trenching with not trenching doubled tracks between the south side of the Buena Vista Lagoon and the north side of the Agua Hedionda Lagoon. That distance includes their downtown area and three current at-grade crossings.
They contend that trenching when doubling would increase the appeal of their corridor, thereby increasing sales, property and transient occupancy tax revenues, while not trenching would have the opposite effect. Further, Carlsbad says trenching when doubling would eventually pay for itself and then perpetuate increased tax revenues.
SANDAG has allotted about $125,000 for studying the engineering and economic feasibility of trenching when doubling the tracks through the cited distance in Carlsbad.
With twin tracks through the North Coast corridor, daily rail traffic is projected to double from about the present 50 to more than 100. On average, 100 trains per day is one every 14 minutes.
Without trenching through Encinitas, the current noise, traffic congestion and public safety hazards would also double. The divided community and illegal parking in the railroad right-of-way would continue. As Carlsbad projects if their tracks are not trenched when doubled, the Encinitas rail corridor’s appeal would decline, as would sales, property and transient occupancy tax revenues.
As Carlsbad has shown, the time to act on trenching the tracks is now. It’s time to stop the naysaying, to stop quoting inaccurate cost estimates and to start getting the job done. Trenching the tracks through Encinitas would benefit residents, visitors, businesses and city coffers forever. The current Encinitas City Council can make trenching the tracks its legacy.
Doug Fiske has lived in Encinitas for 46 years.