Ribbon-cutting event held to celebrate El Portal Undercrossing completion


SANDAG and the City of Encinitas officially opened the El Portal Undercrossing in Old Encinitas and celebrated the completion of the first phase of Leucadia Streetscape with a ribbon-cutting event on Aug. 14.

The El Portal Undercrossing provides a safe, legal path for pedestrians and bicyclists crossing the railroad between North Coast Highway 101 and Vulcan Avenue, east of El Portal Street, according to a news release. The new undercrossing is located beneath the rail tracks along the LOSSAN rail corridor, the regional backbone of San Diego’s commuter, national defense, and freight rail services.

“The El Portal Undercrossing creates a much-needed connection for our community to safely reach homes, businesses, schools, and the coast on both sides of the railroad,” said SANDAG Chair and City of Encinitas Mayor Catherine Blakespear. “Creating a complete network of fast and frequent transit services to major destinations is a priority of the SANDAG Regional Plan.”

Crews broke ground in December 2020 and completed the project in 21 months. The $12.1 million construction budget was funded through the City of Encinitas’ general fund and a grant from Caltrans’ Active Transportation Program.

“The El Portal Underpass is a big win for our community and region — it connects neighbors, businesses, beaches, and our local elementary school, who have been divided for half a century,” said Assemblymember Tasha Boerner Horvath. “When we build smarter, safer, and more efficient paths for communities, walking and biking becomes an easier choice for all. That’s why the El Portal Undercrossing was one of the first projects I pushed for when I spoke in front of the Encinitas City Council for the first time in 2015 and I am thrilled to see it completed!”

Pedestrians and cyclists used the undercrossing at the opening on Sunday, Aug. 14, passing just beneath the LOSSAN rail corridor during regular rail service.

“This undercrossing will help reduce dangerous trespassing along the LOSSAN coastal rail corridor,” said City of Encinitas Council Member and North County Transit District Board Member Kellie Hinze. “The improvements also comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act so that all people who walk, bike, and roll in the area can safely pass, regardless of mobility needs. This is a major win for the community and visitors alike.”

The project opened just before the new school year began at Paul Ecke Central Elementary School.

“Our students and families have shared their excitement for the enhanced connectivity that the El Portal Undercrossing brings to the community,” said Wesley Sechrest, principal of Paul Ecke Central Elementary School. “This fall, our students and their families will have improved access and safety around railroad tracks when making their way to our campus.”

SANDAG and the City of Encinitas built the El Portal Undercrossing in conjunction with the Leucadia Streetscape Project. The first phase of the Streetscape project was completed in July 2022 with roadway improvements stretching from Marcheta Street to Basil Street. Leucadia Streetscape is a corridor improvement project designed to preserve and revitalize North Coast Hwy 101 in Leucadia and Old Encinitas. The project includes expanded sidewalks and bikes lanes, increased parking capacity, a new roundabout, and additional landscaping. Construction began in January 2021. — City of Encinitas and SANDAG news release

Photos by Robert McKenzie