ENCINITAS — Despite the requests of numerous residents, City Council voted unanimously to continue with plans to build pedestrian crossings under the railroad on Oct. 14.
A large contingent of supporters of “at-grade” crossings addressed the council in an effort to scrap the project in favor of a cheaper, easier solution. The three pedestrian crossings under the railroad tracks come at a price tag of $15 million.
Several speakers asked the council to pursue permission from the state regulatory agency and the railroad companies to approve a simpler plan to cross the tracks at street level. “All I’m asking for is time (to explore the issue),” said Leucadia resident Rachelle Collier, who helped collect 700 signatures in support of developing a plan to create at-grade crossings.
While preliminary environmental work is under way for proposed underpasses at El Portal Street, Santa Fe Drive and Montgomery Avenue, the city has only budgeted $1 million for the Santa Fe site with additional $4 million earmarked by the state for the project. A fourth project at Hillcrest Drive is undergoing environmental review.
Councilman Jerome Stocks, who represents the city on the North County Transit District, previously said he is optimistic that financial support will be forthcoming.
Stocks also said that if the city pursues at-grade crossings it will be difficult to establish so-called “quiet zones” because of safety concerns.
Councilman Dan Dalager said he doubted the city would get permission to build at-grade crossings.
A consultant hired by the city said that it was unlikely to receive permission to build at-grade crossings. William Schulte told the council that the state regulatory agency, the Public Utilities Commission and the railroad companies oppose those requests because of safety concerns.
However, Councilwoman Teresa Barth said the city should at least attempt to acquire approval. She and other speakers referred to at-grade crossings built in San Clemente.
Schulte said San Clemente’s success in obtaining permission to build at-grade crossings was based on the proximity of the railroad tracks to the beach, which are closer than those in Encinitas.
Several speakers told the council that they cross the tracks illegally on a regular basis to get to the beach, businesses and schools. “I just think it’s ridiculous that we haven’t completely exhausted all our lobbying efforts to get safe at-grade crossings before throwing up our hands and saying ‘we’re not going to get approval,’” Cardiff-by-the-Sea resident Jeremy Silver said after the meeting. “I cross the tracks almost every day and haven’t been killed yet,” he said.