We reached a major milestone last week when we cut the ceremonial ribbon on $100 million of infrastructure improvements in the City of Encinitas. These SANDAG projects provide tremendous benefits that will last for generations.
The most exciting achievement is the opening of the Coastal Rail Trail – 1.3 miles of a pedestrian and bike path with a sweeping ocean view that runs from downtown Cardiff to the pedestrian underpass at Santa Fe Drive, leading into downtown Encinitas. All of the rail trail is completely separated from cars, as you can see in the bottom of the three photos below.
It’s truly a phenomenal community improvement! I couldn’t be happier about it. Before it even officially opened last Thursday, I saw people using the path in every possible way – two older women in tennis shoes with walkers out exercising, a man carrying his dry cleaning as he walked home, a dad on a bike with a toddler in a bike seat, pulling another daughter behind him on a skateboard, plus all the runners, bikers, dog walkers, scooters and parents with strollers.
The drizzly morning didn’t dampen any spirits as we cut the ribbon with local dignitaries from the federal, state and local level, alongside enthusiastic community members. Your entire City Council and top city staff were there for the first official ride/walk/stroll/run. In the middle photo you can see Councilmembers Kellie Shay Hinze, Joe Mosca, Tony Kranz (with granddaughter!) and Jody Hubbard. The bottom photo gives you a great view of our new safe and winding path. (This is an actual photo, which I saw SANDAG staff taking with a very tall pole a few days before the ribbon cutting!)
It’s such a joy to walk or ride around Encinitas without the aggravation and stress of mixing with cars. I hope our new rail trail is the beginning of a great new era – with separated paths all over the city.
You may recall the community division associated with the rail trail approval process. I still consider it the most difficult issue that I’ve been involved in. The takeaway for me is that we all live and learn. I made my first rail trail decision five months after being elected. Now coming up on five years in elected office, I’m better at managing open conflict and finding the right personal balance in my approach with others.
I’m also heartened by every new example of the substantial expertise and commitment to quality that the city’s partner agencies demonstrate. I initially feared that the SANDAG-designed rail trail would be a soulless, overly wide, concrete airstrip. In reality, the rail trail is tasteful, winding and charming, with an airy, open feel. Parking is improved, and you no longer fear falling off the side of the cliff above the railroad tracks or being hit by oncoming cars. It will be even more stunning when the wildflowers grow up around it.
In addition to my gratitude for regional and local professionals who created this, I’m tremendously appreciative to the community members who had vision, perseverance, and a willingness to devote the most valuable of all commodities to this project – their precious time.
If you haven’t come to Cardiff to check it out yet, please consider taking a trip here to see this exciting new ocean-view pathway from Cardiff to downtown Encinitas. You can even do this on SANDAG’s annual Bike to Work day, which is this Thursday. You can register here. There’s even a pit stop on the new rail trail!
Two tracks and a new bridge over the lagoon
In addition to the rail trail, the SANDAG ribbon-cutting also recognized the accomplishment of double-tracking the rail corridor and building a new railroad bridge over the San Elijo Lagoon that allows for healthier tidal flushing, as seen above.
You’ll notice the subtle placing of the letters that spell “CARDIFF” on each of the western-facing concrete caps along the bridge. The eastern-facing caps depict different birds that you might find in the lagoon.
The photo above shows the brand new second track with two trains passing each other. That’s right, trains can now travel in both directions at the same time!
The double track is a critical piece of the puzzle in improving transit in North County, because it will allow greater frequency for the trains. Our focus at SANGAG, NCTD and the city is on prioritizing the acquisition of more train sets which will allow 30-minute intervals between trains, resulting in more efficient and usable public transportation throughout North County.
We’ve just crossed over into The Quiet Zone
The third key piece of this puzzle is the improvements all around Chesterfield Drive – now crossing the road isn’t like a game of Frogger! The city contributed about $800,000 to the project to add the additional safety measures necessary to make this the first Quiet Zone in the city.
It’s like a cloud lifting not to have each train blowing its horn four times as it goes through the intersection. The addition of more gates, fencing, bells and signage allowed us to receive the Quiet Zone certification. Now engineers will only blow their horn if there’s a safety or other reason to do so.
(Maybe it’s just me, but I see that the “LOOK” sign above as having been mischievously modified to read “KOOK,” referencing the nearby public art affectionately known as the Cardiff Kook.)
What it all means
One of the city’s strategic priorities is to make the railroad corridor fit better into our existing neighborhoods and commercial zones. This series of projects is a major advancement of that goal.
The completion of these projects shows government at its best – different agencies with different missions working together to accomplish worthy goals. It’s also a real-time example of the new vision unveiled at SANDAG that includes a “complete corridors” concept. That means we improve transit, alternate transportation methods such as biking, and roads all at the same time. These three projects do that.
And finally, thank you to the taxpayers, who provided the funding at the federal, state and local level. The local TransNet sales tax that we all pay when we shop throughout the county is a significant piece of that funding. So thanks go to all of us countywide! Our tax dollars at work!
Sometimes in the tumult of daily life, we can lose sight of the fact that so many good things are happening around us. It’s important that we pause long enough to appreciate these new enhancements. Within a very short time these infrastructure improvements will seem as if they were always here. So now is the moment to bask in the recognition of positive change.
As your mayor, I’m very proud of our progress, and I hope you get a chance to experience the results this summer!
P.S. Thank you to all who attended the 26th Annual Mayor’s Interfaith Community Prayer Breakfast On May 2 (see photo below). It’s always an inspiring event and a welcome opportunity to focus on the spiritual side of our community. The KUSI News story is here.