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Leucadia a ‘problematic area’ for illegal railroad crossings

There’s a legal crossing at Leucadia Boulevard, but it’s common to see people just north breaking the law by walking across the railway.

In hopes of cutting down on illegal crossings, North County Transit District (NCTD) recently identified north of Leucadia Boulevard as one of three focus spots.

“It’s proven to be a problematic area for us since we’ve had a heavy number of incidents there,” said Katie Whichard, NCTD’s public information officer.

According to NCTD data, four of the eight train fatalities in Encinitas since 2011 occurred near Leucadia Boulevard.

“It’s a very high number compared to the other areas our trains go through,” Whichard said.

Torrey Pines State Beach and the Del Mar Fairgrounds are two other focus areas, according to a recent NCTD board presentation.

Whichard said people frequently cross north of Leucadia Boulevard to get to businesses and the beach. She added that, unfortunately, some don’t realize how fast the trains are moving until it’s too late.

NCTD and the city of Encinitas are gearing up for a study to determine specific hotspots in Leucadia for illegal crossings and infrastructure that might prevent the problem, Whichard said.

“We will work with community partners to identify solutions,” Whichard said.

In the meantime, NCTD has partnered with Operation Lifesaver, a nonprofit dedicated to railroad safety, to distribute educational fliers warning people and Leucadia businesses about the dangers of illegally crossing the tracks.

NCTD contracts with the Encinitas-based Sheriff’s Transit Services Unit, which handles education and enforcement along the tracks.

A representative from the Sheriff’s Transit Services Unit did not return a request to comment on whether more deputies will be posted to monitor due north of Leucadia Boulevard.

A citation for illegally crossing the tracks can run as much as $1,000 and require a court appearance.

In June, a deputy from the unit told the Encinitas Advocate citations are generally reserved for egregious violations like intoxicated people stumbling along the railway. Instead, the deputy said the unit has generally opted for warnings and education.

The city has sought to construct undercrossings at Grandview Street, El Portal Street and Montgomery Avenue to cut down on railroad trespassings, but has been unsuccessful in grant bids.

Currently, there are only eight places to legally get across the tracks in Encinitas, with the Santa Fe undercrossing being one.

Councilman Tony Kranz, the city’s representative on the NCTD board, said in addition to undercrossings, he believes the city should pursue grants to trench the tracks at Leucadia Boulevard.

If the trains ran underneath the intersection, this would make it easier for pedestrians to cross and greatly improve traffic flow, he said.

“That intersection is dangerous because of so many cars, so many trains and so many pedestrians all competing,” Kranz said.

The cost to underground the tracks at the intersection is estimated at $150 million. Kranz said while expensive, undergrounding the railroad should still be pursued.

“Rail issues are such a huge part of our quality of life,” Kranz said. “In the past, many have said that (trenching the tracks at Leucadia Boulevard) will never happen, but I think we have to try. And so I’m dedicated to searching for funding to underground the railroad.”

Kranz said the city will hold a rail summit sometime in the next few months to get input on what might be done to address trespassing and other rail issues.


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