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Encinitas misses out on round of funding for rail crossings

An undercrossing at Santa Fe Drive. After the state denied a funding request, the city is looking to secure funding from SANDAG for other crossings.
( / Jared Whitlock)

The California Transportation Commission recently awarded grants for infrastructure projects. Yet a planned undercrossing in both Leucadia and Cardiff didn’t make the cut.

City officials, though, are hopeful Encinitas will receive local funding from SANDAG in September.

The city applied for $5.4 million at the state level to cover the full cost of an undercrossing at El Portal Street. Likewise, the city sought $6 million for a $6.6 million undercrossing at Montgomery Avenue.

The city also requested $1.38 million for a roundabout on Hymettus Avenue, which didn’t receive funding.

City officials have said rail crossings are key for pedestrian safety and improving access to the coast. Last year, an undercrossing across from Swami’s Beach debuted to the public.

“They reduce unauthorized rail crossings,” said Ed Deane, senior civil engineer with the city.

Encinitas also has a crossing at Grandview Street on the drawing board, but a funding source hasn’t been identified.

Every two years, the California Transportation Commission approves the statewide grant program. It’s designed to pay for key infrastructure projects.

This marked the first time Encinitas has applied for this particular state program.

While the city successfully secured grant funding to pay for the Santa Fe undercrossing years ago, it’s had no such luck with the other crossings.

The commission prioritizes projects that are cost effective, increase walkability, promote health, have the potential to reduce accidents and are located in disadvantaged communities.

“For that last category it requires that you have a nearby school with 75 percent of the students who are eligible for free or reduced cost meals,” Deane said. “At Paul Ecke only 28 percent of the students are eligible for this, so we don’t score well in the category.”

Since Encinitas missed out on this round, now funding for the three projects is in the hands of SANDAG.

However, SANDAG requires cities to contribute an 11 percent match for the projects, which wasn’t the case with the state program.

So, for the $5.4 El Portal Street undercrossing, if the city’s application is successful, it would get $4.8 million and have to cover the rest.

Deane said the projects were close to receiving funding at the state level, and he believes they have a good shot with SANDAG.

“We weren’t off by many points,” he said. “Plus, the state awarded funding to 14 projects in San Diego County. So there’s fewer to compete with at SANDAG.”

SANDAG will announce grant recipients Sept. 20.

Deane said the city is particularly interested in moving forward with the El Portal undercrossing. The goal is to coordinate construction with the Leucadia streetscape and the coastal rail trail in 2016 or 2017.

“You would have a roundabout at El Portal, which would lead to the rail crossing, which would coincide with the rail trail, and this would all help get people to Paul Ecke (Elementary) school and the coast,” Deane said.


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