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.
CalTrans and SANDAG are holding a public hearing on January 26 at the Encinitas Community Center about amending the North Coast Corridor Public Works Plan / Transportation and Resource Enhancement Program (yes, that's a mouthful for sure). This is basically a sort of transportation master plan. Some of the proposed changes are related to the Coastal Rail Trail, including but not limited to the Cardiff segment. CalTrans and SANDAG basically want to make some minor language tweaks to redefine where it's permissible to build the Coastal Rail Trail. The current language in the master plan specifies that all segments of the trail absolutely, positively have to be built inside the railroad right of way. The proposed amendment will widen the definition so that the trail can also be built adjacent to the railroad right of way. The new language will apply to all segments. These changes are actually important and beneficial for the Cardiff segment of the CRT regardless of where you stand on the alignment issue: The changes need to be made for both the east-side alignment we favor and the alignment along the 101 which was proposed as an alternative. We are not planning to be at the meeting because the changes are very minor and don't favor one alternative over another. Really, it's just about giving CRT planners more flexibility. Also, the CRT is one tiny part of the meeting... the proposed amendments to the master plan touch many different projects from the railroads to the highways. With all that said, we've gotten wind that some trail opponents may show up and try to take over the meeting. My understanding is that the moderators will try to keep the meeting on topic. I don't think it's helpful or productive to create a brawl between supporters and opponents at a meeting that's not even really about the Cardiff Rail Trail... so I'm appealing to supporters to avoid picking a fight there. Let CalTrans and SANDAG get their business done. Our $.02.
The New Rail Trail will Complement the Natural Environment in the Rail Corridor, not Replace it
Integrating the trail with the natural environment is a top priority. While the trail route along north San Elijo Avenue is currently just a chaotic dirt parking lot, there are some very scenic areas in the rail corridor to the south (across from the Cardiff school). The rail trail will be carefully integrated with the natural environment here, preserving the sand dune formations and other features that give this area its character. The new trail will make these special places accessible to people of all ages and abilities.
Moderators and authors for the Cardiff Rail Trail page come from a group of dedicated volunteers.