This is the Big One: The City Council Meets on March 30 to Reconsider the Cardiff Rail Trail and Montgomery Crossing
Below is a letter sent to Mayor Gaspar and the Encinitas City Council in advance of the March 30 meeting to reconsider the Cardiff Rail Trail and Montgomery crossing projects (which starts at 6pm). We are going wide with our Council input because the Mayor was unwilling to schedule the meeting so that the founder of the Friends of the Cardiff Rail Trail could attend and speak, leaving the group's leadership feeling disrespected and unheard. Even a week's delay would have worked. Our group has over 1,700 supporters at this point, so we don't understand the slight. Another member of the group will speak on our behalf at the meeting.
Please attend the March 30 meeting regardless of how you feel about the rail trail and crossing projects. Anyone who's been following our group knows we are conflicted about elements of the current plan - but the underlying community needs that were answered by the trail and the crossing are still very much there. We want to make sure that the Council hears about these needs and addresses them with any new plan or change to the existing plan. So... go to the meeting. Speak. Tell the Council what you think. If you have any feelings at all about the rail trail, the Montgomery crossing, and the current state of the Cardiff Rail Corridor, then this is the one meeting you should attend.
If you are intimidated by the idea of attending the meeting and speaking, don't let that stop you. The process is not that scary. The City building is across Vulcan from the Encinitas train station (to the east). Simply show up a little early (at 5:30p or 5:45p), ask for a speaker slip, fill it out, and hand it to the clerk before the meeting starts. You'll be called up and will have three minutes to address the Council. Watch some of the video on the City web site from previous meetings if you feel shy... speakers are not always super articulate or polished in their presentations. However, they do speak from their hearts because they care about their community. What matters is that you are there, that you are heard, and that you are on the record.
Below is our official input to the Council meeting, sent to the City Council, press, and a core group of our supporters in the form of personal emails.
Mayor Gaspar and Encinitas City Council:
I am writing on behalf of the 1,700 people who support the Cardiff Rail Trail on the east side of the tracks. We acknowledge the recent issues with the trail and crossing that led to the March 30 Council meeting to reconsider these improvements. However, we need you to understand that any changes to the plans going forward must address deep community needs served by the current projects.
Mayor Gaspar, we know that you and some other Council members have listened to the organized and vocal rail trail opposition who have done a tremendous job of surfacing their own issues and concerns. We urge you to heed those concerns. But that doesn’t mean you can ignore the needs of the other half of your community. Hear us as well.
First of all, you must know that we have a big problem on North San Elijo Avenue. The bluff top is a mess with haphazard parking creating an obstacle course for pedestrians and cyclists, forcing them out into traffic. This stretch of road is not safe for walkers and bikers, and it stands between Cardiff and the wonderful pedestrian underpass at Swami’s. We need a better answer, a safe path accessible to all.
To the south we have issues with beach access. People are crossing the tracks and Coast Highway illegally, risking their lives as well as a misdemeanor ticket and a huge fine. A consultant hired by the City recently documented up to 90 people crossing per hour on a busy weekend day. Let’s be clear, this is an accident waiting to happen.
There are other factors to consider. NCTD will fence this rail corridor in the next few years regardless of whether or not there is a rail trail. They’ve gone on the record. There are other projects that may affect access as well, such as a concrete drainage ditch running beside the tracks.
There is ultimately only one answer: A safe and legal crossing at Montgomery Avenue. This needs to happen now and not a decade or more in the future.
Also, we know that many of our supporters are not well served by the current dirt path to the south. A lot of Cardiff residents love this path, but it is not accessible to all pedestrians and is not a good answer for many cyclists. We need a path for people of all ages and abilities that connects the Cardiff market area with the Swami’s underpass to the north. It doesn’t matter if this path is wide or narrow, or runs along the road instead of through the unimproved natural areas. The goal is to get us out of our cars and onto our feet or bikes, to open up and connect our communities.
Finally, we must consider the needs of the larger North County community. The Coastal Rail Trail is a regional project and will eventually run from Oceanside to San Diego. By choosing an alignment for the Cardiff Rail Trail, you are defining the future path for the rest of the CRT through Encinitas. You are making decisions for the Highlands, downtown Encinitas, and Leucadia, who have not had a voice in this rail trail debate. This is not just a Cardiff issue. A hasty, ill-considered, and reactive approach to selecting the CRT alignment will endanger the entire regional project and will not serve the rest of our community well.
Mayor Gaspar, we need leadership. You cannot simply kick the can down the road and ask us to wait for some nebulous rail corridor visioning exercise that won’t bear fruit for years or even decades. We’re still waiting for the underpasses promised in 2009. We’ve gotten one out of four built after seven long years. That’s not good enough. You need to make decisions and get results sooner rather than later.
You cannot unsee the damning information recently presented to you by your own consultant about the number of illegal railroad crossings; you own this now. The inevitable accident won’t happen because an able-bodied resident failed to stop, look, and listen before crossing the tracks – it will happen because someone’s dog or child wanders onto the tracks at the wrong place at the wrong time and the owner or parent reacts instinctively. Situations like this are why we’ve seen injuries and fatalities in other parts of the rail corridor. You put your community at risk if you ignore this issue.
Even if you decide to ignore the safety of your community and punt on the crossing, eventually NCTD will act first and fence off the rail corridor. You’ll find yourself reacting once again to yet another community outcry when it happens. What will be the answer then? Why will it be any easier or cheaper than what we could do now? Think ahead, show some vision, and solve this problem now!
You also should not ignore the mess on North San Elijo Avenue. It’s unsafe, unsightly, and unpleasant.
You should not ignore the deep need for an accessible path that connects our communities.
And you must not compromise the entire regional Coastal Rail Trail project by hastily and reactively choosing the alignment through Cardiff.
These are all hard problems to solve and there are lots of government agencies and interests involved. But you are elected to solve hard problems. Lead us to a better plan quickly, one that serves all of us.