We believe that all Cardiff residents should have uninterrupted access to the beach. This has always been true. The City Council feels the same way. In parallel with SANDAG's progress on the new Cardiff Rail Trail, the Encinitas City Council is working on a new at-grade crossing over the tracks at Montgomery Avenue that also includes a traffic light and pedestrian crossing on Route 101. Access to a new safe and legal crossing (over the tracks and a busy road) will offset the requirement for the 4-foot post-and-cable fence along the tracks that is part of the rail trail project. The opening of the new Montgomery crossing will be timed with the completion of the rail trail to ensure seamless, continuous access for residents.
There is currently no legal way to get across the tracks in Cardiff without walking all the way up to the Santa Fe underpass or down to the Chesterfield crossing. Residents are used to crossing the tracks illegally and then running across Route 101. This might work for some, but we need a better long term solution. It's not appropriate for kids, older folks, people with disabilities, or parents pushing strollers. Also, residents who cross the tracks are exposed to a $500+ fine and a misdemeanor ticket. Even after getting over the tracks, residents have to get across a busy Route 101 which is equally if not more dangerous. We can and should do better. The Montgomery railroad and road crossing is the answer.
As for the fence, the owner of the railroad right-of-way insists on it: North County Transit District (NCTD) has gone on the record about their intention to fence the entire Encinitas rail corridor over the next several years. They have stated that they will seek money for a fencing solution if they can't get cities to build the fences as part of capital projects like the rail trail. The reason? Safety. Encinitas has drawn unwelcome attention at NCTD because of the number of illegal crossings and corresponding near misses. The problem will get worse as train traffic through Cardiff increases... the number of trains will double in the coming years.
The requirement for a fence along the tracks isn't ideal. But neither is the need for illegally crossing an active double track and then running across a busy road. With the rail trail and the new Montgomery crossing, we get a network of trails and safe and legal railroad/road crossings. The area will open up for people of all ages and abilities.
Finally, it's worth noting that Cardiff will be getting a new Quiet Zone to reduce train horn noise from current levels since the new Chesterfield and Montgomery crossings will be planned and plumbed for a Quiet Zone.
This tapestry of improvements will level up the area. Cardiff's special character will not be compromised by a safe, accessible trail that complements the natural environment to the south and brings order from chaos to the north. We'll get a better long term and sustainable solution for crossing the tracks and 101 (with the crossing timed with the trail so that residents have continuous, uninterrupted beach access). We'll reduce train noise. It all adds up to a community benefit for all of us.