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Residents make suggestions for El Portal under-crossing

Encinitas residents who live near Paul Ecke Central Elementary School provided their input regarding the future proposed El Portal underpass on June 20 at a meeting at city hall.

The city council in January unanimously approved $881,967 allotted to San Francisco-based T.Y. Lin International architectural firm to design the under-crossing.

Consultants from T.Y. Lin International, as well as city staff members, heard suggestions from about 30 residents ensuring more parking and safety at the under-crossing, which will be in Leucadia.

Jeremy LaHaye, the project manager with T.Y. Lin International, said the goal is to provide a mixed-use, safe route for pedestrians and bicyclists to cross under the railroad tracks, similar to the Santa Fe underpass.

“We’re looking to solve a problem that’s been here in the community for a while,” LaHaye said. “We’re pretty happy with the [Santa Fe] project and we want to do it even better at El Portal.”

Construction is expected to begin in Winter 2018 and end after about 14 months, he said.

Traffic should not be affected for the most part during that time because “a lot of it is going to be staged in the right-of-way,” LaHaye said.

“A lot of the work, once the bridge is put in, won’t be a huge distraction,” he said.

Currently, the city is looking at installing a theme at the El Portal under-crossing that will reflect Encinitas’ history and align with the nearby Pannikin Coffee and Tea building.

Residents also proposed the city look into more parking near the under-crossing, particularly on the west side.

Gary Murphy, a local activist and businessman, said he has talked to Leucadia business owners who would be willing to help the city with money for additional parking spaces, but they want crosswalks and bigger parking areas. Sixty percent of the businesses he has talked to are willing to participate, he said.

Planning Commissioner Michael Glenn O'Grady, who represents Leucadia, said the city should also work to make roundabouts in the area more visible.

“You kind of take your life in your hands in those roundabouts,” he said.

One resident also encouraged the consultants to discuss safety tips with students from Paul Ecke, which is located just east of the under-crossing. LaHaye said the firm is looking to work directly with the school to help educate the students about the construction.

“This is a great opportunity to teach [the students] about planning and engineering,” he said. “This is something that is a learning experience right by their school. It only makes sense to take advantage of that.”

LaHaye said safety is the consultants’ number one concern.

“We’re looking to solve a safety issue and we don’t want to create another one,” he said.

He said North Coast Transit District requires a security camera under the bridge, and if a police vehicle were to park at one end of the tunnel, the officer could easily see through to the other end.

Máté Boerner Horvath, the 9-year-old son of Council member Tasha Boerner Horvath, said he is looking forward to the underpass to safely walk his younger sister to Paul Ecke in the future.

“It will be a lot shorter because now we have to go around,” said the Paul Ecke fifth grader who will be in middle school by the time construction is completed. “There’s an intersection we have to go through now, and it just takes forever. The light takes a really long time to circle around. I think it would make a lot more people walk and bike around here.”


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