Community to weigh in on coastal rail trail


Where should the rail trail — a separated path to get more people to bike and walk — go in Cardiff?

The community will have the chance to weigh in on the Cardiff segment — Chesterfield Drive to E Street in downtown Encinitas — during a workshop from 6-8 p.m. April 21 at the Cardiff Elementary School auditorium.

Options during the meeting will show that the rail trail could run on San Elijo Avenue or Coast Highway 101, or possibly on both roads.

“Everyone will be invited to weigh in on the configuration details,” said Helen Gao, public information officer with the planning agency SANDAG.

Originally, SANDAG wanted to put the Cardiff section of the rail trail east of the train tracks alongside San Elijo Avenue.

But then it was determined a portion of San Elijo Avenue is too narrow to accommodate the rail trail. So, a 2,000-foot-long retaining wall would have to built near Montgomery Avenue to support the path, bringing the project cost to $9 million — much more than the $5.1 million budgeted for the Cardiff segment.

That’s why SANDAG looked west. The rail trail could go on Highway 101, where a short physical barrier would separate it. In addition to the rail trail, a northbound and southbound bike lane, delineated by paint, could also be installed.

However, making space for this option could entail eliminating one northbound lane on Highway 101, or even one lane in each direction.

SANDAG officials have stressed that any lane reduction would have to be supported by traffic studies.

In February, the Encinitas City Council expressed the desire for the rail trail to go on San Elijo Avenue. That way, Cardiff neighborhoods would be more inclined to use the path, councilmembers stated.

Based on council and city staff input, SANDAG is looking into how it can put as much of the rail trail in Cardiff as possible on San Elijo Avenue, according to Gao.

Gao said construction for the Cardiff segment is estimated to start in 2017. The rail trail is planned citywide.

One day, SANDAG envisions the rail trail covering 44 miles.