News about the Verdi pedestrian crossing: The design is great but the City needs a grant to fund part of the construction costs
The Coast News has a recent article about the new pedestrian undercrossing at Verdi (link below).
The good news is that the design is beautiful. The article has an image of the plan for the crossing and it's worth checking out. The bad news is that the total project cost will be about $8.8 million including all the design work and construction. The City of Encinitas will need to get a grant to cover some of the cost.
The need for a grant introduces a bit of uncertainty into the timing for construction. With no dependency on a grant, construction on the new undercrossing could start in the summer of 2019 and be finished in 2020.
The city and its contractor (HDR) are preparing to submit an application for an Active Transportation Grant to cover as much as $4 million of the costs.
In a recent newsletter article, our mayor (Catherine Blakespear) indicated that the earliest completion date would be in 2021 if a grant was secured.
We'll keep you posted as we find out more.
Limited parking and occasional delays on North San Elijo Avenue from construction of the Cardiff Rail Trail
From a recent email blast from "Build NCC" (basically SANDAG and CalTrans):
Motorists, pedestrians and bicyclists may experience short intermittent delays along San Elijo Avenue the week of Monday, May 21 between Verdi Avenue and Santa Fe Drive from 7 a.m. – 5 p.m. Construction crews will restripe traffic lanes along San Elijo Avenue and place concrete barriers along the west side of the road. Vehicle flagging operations will be in effect during this work.
Parking on the bluff along this stretch of San Elijo Avenue will be prohibited at all times during construction of the Coastal Rail Trail bike path. Parking will return in the form of parallel parking upon completion of work in this area. This section of work is expected to be completed by October 2018.
SANDAG confirmed that work started at the end of April. They sent out a notice to that effect in email and now multiple press articles have confirmed that the project is underway. A link to one of the articles (in the Encinitas Advocate / Del Mar Times) is below.
Apologies for the false start in March; we were passing along the latest info that we had.
SANDAG is setting the expectation that the new trail will open in early 2019, with the completion date roughly aligned with the end of the double tracking project. With that said, we should probably be realistic and expect some delays; even so, it seems likely that the trail will be ready at some point in 2019.
At long last! Construction of the Cardiff Rail Trail is scheduled to start soon (this month) at the north end of the trail along the bluff. We'll bring you details as soon as we know more.
On November 29 the Encinitas City Council unanimously approved $1.7MM for design of a new pedestrian undercrossing near Montgomery Avenue and Verdi Avenue. This is a hard commitment and is evidence that the City is following through on the promise to provide safe and legal beach access to go with the Cardiff Rail Trail.
Aaron Burgin wrote an article in The Coast News with an update about the SANDAG approval of the additional funding.
Big news today: The full SANDAG Board voted this morning to approve the additional funding required to build the Cardiff Rail Trail on the east side of the tracks as approved by the California Coastal Commission in early May.
The SANDAG Board approval follows a unanimous Transportation Committee vote on June 2, 2017 to recommend that the Board provide the additional dollars. While the Transportation Committee vote was an important step, the Board meeting was for all the marbles and was not a sure thing given SANDAG's diverse group of elected officials and cities. Our group turned out in force for both meetings with several speakers going on the record supporting the trail.
Now that the funding is approved, SANDAG will move quickly to secure all the final design and construction approvals and permits required to get started. This project is closer than ever before to becoming a reality. It's now fully funded (with enough money in the budget even if the ATP grant goes away), has been approved by the Coastal Commission, and has been endorsed by the City of Encinitas. With the alignment issue settled by the CCC, the City of Encinitas has graciously stepped back into the role of SANDAG partner.
This was the last of the high-stakes public meetings and votes. After many, many years of twists and turns, leaps forward followed by huge reversals, a whole bunch of hard work, lots of waiting, buckets of angst, some good luck, and a tidal wave of goodwill from those of us who fought for it... the Cardiff Rail Trail is on its way.
We have been asked why we put effort into the Coastal Commission meeting (organizing, getting people to write thoughtful emails to the Commissioners, and speaking at the hearing). The reasons are actually pretty simple.
First of all, we had an obligation to the thousands of people who want the trail on the east side of the tracks and have been relying on us to champion their cause. We wanted to represent them well. We take that responsibility very seriously.
Second, we know that Encinitas desperately needs a network of safe/legal RR crossings and pedestrian/bike trails in the Cardiff rail corridor. However, we don't believe we'll see fundamental progress in that direction without the momentum generated by a regional infrastructure project like the Coastal Rail Trail. We were not optimistic that a City-funded improvement of San Elijo Avenue would happen in the foreseeable future given potential concerns about loss of parking and fencing (which would have to be built wherever the trail/sidewalk/path got close to the tracks). We have seen this movie before. We were also not convinced that the pedestrian crossing at Verdi Avenue or Montgomery Avenue would get built any time soon without the impetus of the impending CRT project. With a Coastal Commission mandate, the east-side CRT will make our network of trails and crossings a reality.
Third, we believe the east-side alignment is the right answer for the region, not just Encinitas. The Coastal Rail Trail will run along the east side of the tracks - in the rail corridor - through Leucadia and along Vulcan. The Cardiff section of the CRT belongs in the rail corridor as well. The pedestrian under-crossing at Santa Fe with its stairs and narrow ADA ramp (which has a switchback) is just not designed to handle the traffic moving from a west-side Cardiff CRT segment to the east-side trail that will run along the tracks by necessity. The Chesterfield intersection will be built for that purpose.
We are hopeful that money tentatively earmarked for San Elijo improvements in the City capital budget can be re-purposed for the under-crossing at Verdi or Montgomery which will integrate with the CRT when it's finally built.
We look forward to working with the community and with SANDAG to get the CRT project moving as expeditiously as possible.
The California Coastal Commission voted 7-5 to reject SANDAG's proposed west-side alignment and then voted 12-0 to accept their staff recommendation to put the Coastal Rail Trail through Cardiff on the east side of the tracks. This is a dramatic development.
The plan for an east-side alignment of the Cardiff Rail Trail was left for dead after the Encinitas City Council bowed to the demands of a well organized opposition campaign in March of 2016, voting to endorse a west-side alignment along Route 101 and stranding Cardiff residents who wanted to walk, run, and bike along San Elijo Avenue.
The east-side alignment is now back from the grave. The rail trail alignment issue will go before the California Coastal Commission in early May. Correspondence between Commission staff and SANDAG during the latter part of 2016 indicates that Commission staff are opposed to the west-side alignment.
If the Coastal Commission votes against the west-side alignment, then the original plan for running the trail along the east side of the tracks may be resurrected.
We are in favor of nixing the west-side alignment and revisiting the alignment issue. Since the City Council vote in March of 2016, there have been a number of developments that mitigate in favor of giving the east-side alignment another shot:
1. The City Council has expressed a new openness to building a pedestrian undercrossing at Montgomery Avenue or Verdi Avenue instead of an at-grade crossing as originally contemplated. The undercrossing is desirable because of reduced regulatory delays and the elimination of noise caused by wayside horns and/or train conductors blowing their horns in front of an at-grade crossing. A safe and legal pedestrian crossing with no regulatory hair and no noise issue gives us confidence that any loss of beach access from a trail-side post-and-cable fence can be mitigated in a timely fashion. The need for this crossing is more acute than ever and the explicit linkage between the east-side trail and the crossing - because of the need to avoid or minimize a gap in beach access - will bring this project about sooner rather than later.
2. The delay in the San Elijo double tracking project has opened up an opportunity to sequence the construction of the trail and the new crossing. The current project to build a new bridge across San Elijo Lagoon and double-track from Chesterfield to Solana Beach will take at least two years. Trail construction will likely be another two years beyond that. That gives us four years to approve, design, permit, and build our new pedestrian crossing.
3. The temporary fencing around the staging area for the double tracking project has already disrupted access for those who wish to cross the tracks illegally and that will continue for the next two years. The community reaction to the disruption in illegal access has been muted. Those who currently choose to cross the tracks illegally are routing around the staging area... and the most traveled route across the tracks is now at the same place that the new pedestrian crossing would be built. This gives us heart that a new undercrossing will solve for beach access over the long haul.
4. Several months ago, SANDAG gave indications that they were open to changing the design of the trail between Verdi Street and Chesterfield Street to reduce its footprint and impact. Changes could include a narrower paved cross-section of the trail and a correspondingly wider deconstructed granite component. There were also some preliminary discussions about routing the trail closer to San Elijo Avenue in some areas (and avoiding some natural features like the mud/sand formations). If SANDAG is pushed back into the east-side alignment by the Coastal Commission, then the Encinitas City Council and the community will have the opportunity to come together and work with SANDAG to make changes in the design. We'll have leverage at that point that we haven't had up to now.
5. We have heard from many residents who feel regret that the east-side alignment was killed by the City Council. There is considerable latent support for the original plan. We know that the alignment issue divided the community and pitted neighbor against neighbor, but the eventual outcome simply disenfranchised one group instead of another. The east-side alignment served some very deep community needs including accessibility and safety along San Elijo and the rail corridor. Those needs are still there.
We await the results of the Coastal Commission meeting with anticipation. If the decision is made to kill the west-side alignment and thus push SANDAG and the City of Encinitas to reconsider the east-side alignment, then we stand ready to work with the community, the City, and SANDAG to shape the best possible plan for a rail trail that works for all of us and a safe pedestrian crossing at Montgomery Avenue or Verdi Avenue.
Moderators and authors for the Cardiff Rail Trail page come from a group of dedicated volunteers.