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Don’t Fence Me Out
Don Mosier | Rimini Road

Photo Julie Maxey-Allison.
Click to enlarge.

Matt Tucker, Executive Director of North County Transit District (NCTD), causally mentioned at a September 17th presentation to the City Council that the Del Mar Bluff Stabilization Project scheduled for next year also included 2 miles of fencing to keep trespassers off the bluff. Reaction, all of it negative so far, was immediate. Mayor Dwight Worden said that the fence was a bad idea in comments right after the NCTD presentation. Frank Stonebanks, who organized protests against the ticketing of trespassers on the tracks, said he has spoken to many citizens and no one thought fencing was a good idea. Dan Quirk, Frank Stonebanks, and Terry Gaasterland have started a petition on the website Change.org

https://www.change.org/p/stop-the-nctd-from-fencing-off-the-train-tracks-in-2019-on-the-del-mar-bluffs] that has collected almost 200 signatures as of this writing.

Latest BLUFF LANDSLIDE around 9th Street in Del Mar occurred on or before Thursday, September 27th. Easily as large as the earlier landslide on 11th Street.
Photo Julie Maxey-Allison.
Click to enlarge

There are options. NCTD and the City of Del Mar have agreed to study the feasibility of a pedestrian crossing either at grade or below grade, but these are expensive options that will require approval from the Federal Railway Administration (FRA) and probably the Coastal Commission. The City of Ventura recently got the Union Pacific Railway to agree to remove fences blocking access to the beach because they were not approved by the city or the Coastal Commission. This decision would appear to undercut the NCTD argument that their right-of-way is only subject to FRA regulations and would not need local approval. NCTD has argued that pedestrians on the bluff are killing vegetation that would help stabilize the cliffs. A few footfalls having more impact that the vibrations caused by 80 heavy trains per day; doesn’t seem likely. The recent bluff collapses foreshadow more damage to come from rising sea levels and water runoff from natural events and excessive landscape watering. Fences won’t solve these problems.

I was on the NCTD Board of Directors for 4 years, and I dreaded the “train versus trespasser” messages that usually announced a fatal encounter. Rail safety is an important issue for NCTD and Del Mar, but a fence is likely to be ineffective, and may actually make the rail corridor less safe. Let’s work for better alternatives, and push for funding to accomplish them.



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