Pro-Trail Group Responds to Kristin Gaspar and Mark Muir Letter About the Rationale for Their "No" Vote on the Cardiff Rail Trail
Published on local community web sites as a counter-point to the recent letter and also posted on our Facebook page:
I am writing to set the record straight on the planned Cardiff Rail Trail after Encinitas City Council members Kristin Gaspar and Mark Muir recently wrote a letter about why they voted "No" on the Cardiff Rail Trail (which passed the Council 3-2 in May of 2015).
I am a member of the "Friends of the Cardiff Rail Trail", a group that supports the new trail along with the proposed at-grade railroad and road crossing at Montgomery Street. I created the yesrailtrail.com web site and its new sister site cardiffrailtrail.com.
While I respect Gaspar and Muir for going on the record with their opinions and the rationale for their vote, I am compelled to respond to some of the inaccuracies and scare tactics in their letter.
First of all, contrary to what Gaspar and Muir assert, the rail trail project enjoys a great deal of support in Encinitas. I know this because we have a list of nearly 900 supporters that grows every day. We have hundreds of strongly supportive emails, posts, and comments that are all attributable to actual residents (and these are not the automated form letters that Gaspar and Muir cite as overwhelming evidence of opposition). We also recently conducted an online non-partisan survey about the trail that was surfaced to 15,000 Encinitas residents and garnered several hundred responses. The bottom line from the survey is that Encinitas as a whole supports the trail with its east-side alignment by more than 2:1 and the community of Cardiff is in favor of it as well (albeit by a smaller margin than the rest of the city).
Aside from confirming our hypothesis that a silent majority wants the trail, the survey also highlighted that 85% of Encinitas residents who support the trail actually plan to use it themselves. This was true for people living in Leucadia, the Highlands, the coastal/downtown corridor, and areas east of the 5 Freeway. This project is a community benefit that will be enjoyed and appreciated by the entire city.
As for scare tactics, Gaspar and Muir raise the specter of an even taller fence along the tracks than the planned 4 foot tall post-and-cable fence that is a part of the rail trail project. Their letter says: "NCTD has reaffirmed that if people choose to cross over the new 4-foot fence, a taller, more effective fence will be needed".
They are just trying to scare you. NCTD has always had the right to build whatever sort of fence they want along the corridor. This is not new information. It's their right of way. NCTD originally wanted a 6 foot chain link fence to go with the rail trail project. The 4 foot post-and-cable fence in the current plan is a negotiated compromise because NCTD is trying to be sensitive to the community's desires and needs. However, given NCTD's concerns about safety and liability, they have to reserve their right to stop illegal crossings. When pressed, of course they will assert their right to try a different solution if this one doesn't work. Does that mean a project to replace a fence that isn't even built yet with some sort of other nightmare fence is on a hair trigger? Of course not. And for the record, a safe and legal railroad crossing at Montgomery Street is the key to reducing illegal crossings over the long haul.
There is also a logical inconsistency in the Gaspar and Muir position on the fence. In one part of their letter they argue that a rail fence might never be built at all because NCTD has not allocated funds for it. And yet at the same time, they are quick to say that NCTD is poised to replace the planned fence with some sort of horrible Berlin Wall monstrosity. The latter argument doesn't make sense in the context of the former. You can't have it both ways.
Finally, in response to the argument that NCTD has no money allocated for a fence, I would point out that NCTD has publicly stated that it will be seeking planning dollars to develop context sensitive fencing solutions for the area. Those are their words, not mine. So it seems disingenuous to say that fencing is nothing but a twinkle in NCTD's eye. We should grab the compromise while we can, especially since it is a part of a community improvement that will benefit the whole city.
On the topic of the Montgomery crossing, Gaspar and Muir claim that the city will have to spend $1MM after the crossing is built to silence the resulting noise pollution. This is an incomplete version of reality at best. The $1MM will go towards establishing a "Quiet Zone" that will actually reduce train horn noise along the whole Cardiff corridor from current levels. This is arguably worth doing even if no Montgomery crossing were built.
I'd also like to point out that Gaspar and Muir would rather wait another three, four, or five years to get funding for the perfect Montgomery crossing. Then it will take years to plan it, permit it, and build it. I'd rather we move forward. A $2MM at-grade crossing will do the job. Let's get it done now and not wait the better part of a decade (or more) for something that will be two or three times the total cost in the end.
The plan of record for four new underpasses throughout Encinitas came into being in 2009 and so far only one has been built (at Santa Fe, at a cost of $6MM) with funding for another at El Portal just recently approved. Given the current inertia, the Montgomery underpass is years and years away... and will likely cost far more than the $6MM spent at Santa Fe.
Last but not least, I want to address the concerns Gaspar and Muir raised about the trail's impact on the undeveloped area and on parking. Gaspar and Muir use the word "dramatically" twice to describe the negative effects of the planned trail on the undeveloped area and on the parking along San Elijo Avenue. With respect, that is entirely too much drama.
The planned trail will wind through the natural environment and complement it, not replace it. More people will be able to enjoy the area.
The situation with parking is more nuanced. There will indeed be a moderate reduction in parking spaces along the stretch of San Elijo near Santa Fe, although it won't be "dramatic". But the trade-off is for pedestrian and bike accessibility and safety. That north stretch of San Elijo is not safe nor is it accessible. The trail with its parallel parking along the road solves the safety issues and opens up that corridor for all of us. Cars may have to park a little farther south on San Elijo on busy holiday weekends in exchange for a safe, accessible, and pleasant pedestrian and bike path.
Please get the facts about this project. Don't react to scare tactics and to a partial picture that emphasizes the negative. You can now see where your City Council stands since most members are on the record (Catherine Blakespear and Lisa Shaffer have written extensively about their reasons for voting "yes"). There are advocacy groups on both sides of the issue, each with hundreds of supporters who have surfaced volumes of data about the rail trail. There is a great deal of public information out there. Do your research and make an informed judgment.
There has been quite a bit of press coverage about the Cardiff Rail Trail and the debate that has erupted around it. Here is a round-up of some of the articles over the last few months:
A very balanced article in the Union Tribune about the trail and its supporters and opponents.
A balanced article in The Coast News that includes an interview with an NCTD spokesperson who clearly communicates the intent to fence off the Encinitas rail corridor and the concerns with safety that are driving that decision.
An article in the Encinitas Advocate about the emergence of the YesRailTrail supporter group.
In late November Catherine Blakespear sent out a newsletter about the Cardiff Rail Trail and her decision to support it as a member of the Encinitas City Council. Hit the button below to check it out:
Moderators and authors for the Cardiff Rail Trail page come from a group of dedicated volunteers.