It’s an unusual and exciting achievement when $100 million of infrastructure improvements comes to the City of Encinitas!
As the mayor, I’m thrilled to see the creation of brand new and immediately popular public spaces. It’s hard to overstate the benefits to quality of life from the new Cardiff Rail Trail, the removal of train horn noise at the Chesterfield intersection, safer access across and around Highway 101 and a long-term, stable railroad track over the San Elijo Lagoon that has the capacity for two trains to go in each direction at the same time.
Sometimes in the tumult of daily life, we can lose sight of the good things happening around us. Before long, these infrastructure improvements will seem as if they were always here. So now’s a good time for us to pause long enough to appreciate these positive changes.
While many of these projects were planned years ago, they are a current example of SANDAG’s “complete corridors” concept, which means improving transit, roads, and bike and pedestrian facilities such as the rail trail – all at the same time. SANDAG is the region’s transportation agency, which plans large transportation projects throughout the county.
The recently completed projects include:
A new 1.3 mile Coastal Rail Trail from Chesterfield Drive to Santa Fe Drive that is fully separated from cars, with sweeping ocean views and dedicated parking spots;
A new living shorelines sand dune system south of Cardiff’s restaurant row on Highway 101 with a dedicated walking path, disabled-accessible rubberized ramps, and rip-rap topped with 30,000 cubic yards of erodible sand dredged from the San Elijo Lagoon to provide native plant and animal habitat while protecting Highway 101 from storm surges;
Chesterfield Drive intersection improvements and safety measures including new pedestrian gates that allowed us to quiet the train horns as they pass through the intersection. Removal of noise pollution is like a cloud lifting. Now train engineers blow their horns only if there’s a safety risk or other reason to do so;
A new second track for the railroad line as it goes through the San Elijo Lagoon;
· A new train bridge over the lagoon mouth entrance that allows better tidal flushing and is durable and safe. And the west-facing pillars spell out C-A-R-D-I-F-F!
You may recall the community division when the Cardiff Rail Trail was being designed and approved. I sure do – I still consider it the most difficult issue that I’ve been involved in since being elected. The takeaway for me is that we all live and learn. I made my first rail trail decision five months into my first term. Now coming up on five years in elected office, I’m better at managing raw, open conflict and finding the right personal balance in my approach with others.
I’m heartened by every government project that demonstrates professionalism, expertise and commitment to quality. I initially feared that the SANDAG-designed rail trail would be a soulless, overly-wide, concrete airstrip. In reality, the rail trail is tasteful, winding and charming, with an airy, open feel as it runs through wildflowers and undulating dunes. The trail is already filled with families, young bike riders, strollers, dog walkers and older people exercising.
It’s such a joy to walk or ride around Encinitas without the aggravation and peril of mixing with cars. I hope our new rail trail is the beginning of a bright new era, with separated paths all over the city.
Soon we’ll have a new road striping plan for Highway 101 headed into Solana Beach to improve safety for all users. And the next large city project is the overhaul of 2.5 miles of Highway 101 through downtown Leucadia, which will improve the rail corridor and transform the area into a more welcoming, safer community gathering space.
The completion of these projects shows local government at its best, different agencies with different missions – the city, SANDAG, CalTrans, North County Transit District – working together to accomplish worthy goals.
I’m also tremendously appreciative to the community members who had vision, perseverance, and a willingness to devote the most valuable of all commodities to the advocacy of the rail trail project – their precious time.
If you haven’t checked out these improvements yet, please consider a trip here to experience them!