Encinitas undercrossings unsuccessful in grant bid


After failing to make the cut at the state level, two undercrossings designed to improve safety in the rail corridor were recently passed over for SANDAG grant funding.

City officials said the Active Transportation Program, a grant opportunity that will come around again in 2016, was one of the better chances in recent years to obtain funding for the rail undercrossings. But they’ll hunt for other potential funding sources in the meantime.

“We’re working as hard as we can to finalize the plans, get funding wherever we can and make things happen,” said Encinitas Councilwoman Lisa Shaffer, who is also the city’s representative on SANDAG.

A SANDAG scorecard ranked projects based on whether they would ensure access to jobs, improve safety and other criteria. The SANDAG Board approved the 10 projects that finished highest at its Oct. 3 meeting.

An undercrossing at El Portal Street ranked 17 out of 42. The Montgomery Avenue undercrossing came in at 31.

The council has prioritized undercrossings to cut down on unauthorized pedestrian crossings, and councilmembers also want to bolster coastal access.

Shaffer said the El Portal crossing is particularly important because it would make it much easier for Paul Ecke Elementary students and their parents to cross the tracks.

“We have the school on one side of the railroad tracks, and we have many families attending that school on the other side,” Shaffer said. “And there’s the desire for the general public to make it to the beach or shop in the area. It’s a long way from the nearest intersection where people can safely and legally cross.”

Additionally, Shaffer said the aim is to tie in undercrossing construction with that of the planned Leucadia Streetscape and the coastal rail trail — a path for pedestrians and cyclists that will run parallel to the tracks. Work is loosely scheduled to begin on those projects around 2017.

In August, the undercrossings failed to win funding from the California Transportation Commission’s Active Transportation Program, putting them in the hands of the regional program at SANDAG.

The city’s application sought $4.8 million to cover most of the cost of the $5.4 million El Portal undercrossing. Likewise, it tried to obtain $5.9 million for a $6.6 million Montgomery Avenue undercrossing.

Shaffer and Deputy Mayor Tony Kranz, the city’s alternate on the SANDAG board, will meet with SANDAG staff next week to discuss other funding ideas, according to Shaffer.

“I’m hopeful that it’s not waiting another two years, but I don’t want to presume the outcome of the discussion,” Shaffer said.

Ed Deane, senior civil engineer with the city, said the city will have more chances in the near and long term to apply for grants.

“I had thought it was our best chance for funding,” Deane said. “That’s the reason we had El Portal as our main project. But other grants come along throughout the year.”

He added that with council approval, city staff will seek more grants in hopes of funding the undercrossings.

The city currently has one undercrossing at Santa Fe Drive, across from Swami’s Beach. In addition to El Portal and Montgomery, another undercrossing is on the drawing board at Grandview Street. Funding hasn’t been identified for it.