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Tracking the Tracks
Nancy Fisher | 24th Street

 

Train going over the trestle at 28th Street behind the Beach Colony. The already elevated track could rise another 10 feet.
Photo Mike Salt

 

Railway trestle over the San Dieguito Lagoon behind the Beach Colony.  Photo Stu Smith

 

Del Mar residents attended a project scoping meeting on Tuesday, January 22, at the Del Mar Hills Academy to learn more about a new rail project near the Del Mar Fairgrounds. The open house, hosted by the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG) introduced members of the community to the “San Dieguito Double Track and Special Events Platform” project and offered them the opportunity to provide input on what should be studied under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).

 

Mayor Terry Sinnott talking with a SANDAG rep at the
recent project scoping meeting. Photo Mike Salt

 

The project, which is currently funded through engineering and environmental review, but not through final design or construction, has three main components. It will replace the existing wooden trestle bridge, which dates back to 1916, with a new bridge raised to meet the requirements of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for flooding. It will add approximately one mile of second track from Solana Beach to Jimmy Durante Boulevard. And it will add a special events rail platform which will offer direct Amtrack and COASTER service to major events at the fairgrounds. The platform would be minimal in design, including no furnishings or elevated shading structures, to reduce its visual impact.
After speaking with SANDAG engineers, project managers, and board members, residents (many of whom live in the Beach Colony) expressed their concerns. Among them are the size and location of the platform – too far south, and long enough for a ten-car train, and the possibility that the stop will bring additional noise and to the area.

The largest objection to the project is that elevating the new bridge to meet flood plain requirements will require the stretch of tracks east of the Beach Colony between 28th and 21st Streets to be raised as well, in some cases up to 8-10 feet. The tracks would be highest at 28th Street and descend about one foot per street from there until returning to their existing level after 21st Street. Depending on whether their homes were built before or after current flood-plain standards, residents at the ends of these streets could find trains either towering over their homes or looking directly into their second story windows.

According to Project Manager Linda Culp, SANDAG is aware of this, and still actively looking into alternatives such as raising the bridge on Camino Del Mar at Dog Beach, which would allow them to lower the new bridge by two or more feet and still meet flood requirements, or even attempting to obtain a height waiver from FEMA.

At an estimated cost of $100M, and a construction start date of “before 2030,” the community still has plenty of time to weigh in at additional meetings planned throughout 2013, but local officials, including Del Mar’s Mayor Terry Sinnott, are encouraging early participation in the process in case the money to complete the project becomes available sooner than expected.

 

 

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