Long-planned coastal rail trail slowly taking shape

ENCINITAS — The city is making progress on a nearly decade’s old regional plan to create a trail that runs the length of the state’s scenic southern coastline along the rail corridor.
The project involves the preservation and development of disconnected links like those already in place in Oceanside, Carlsbad and Solana Beach.
These patches of rail trail will one day connect the entire 42-mile Coastal Rail Trail.
Designed as a means of increasing bike and foot traffic, the trail will run adjacent to the active tracks of the San Diego to Los Angeles corridor.
As Amtrak, Metrolink and Coaster commuter trains create a barrier to the coastline for many residents and visitors to coastal cities, public transportation is a priority.
With that in mind, the rail trail is designed to be more than merely a recreational-use path, but rather a means of foot and bicycle traffic that will ultimately reduce carbon emissions and vehicle congestion, according to planning agency staff.
Richard Phillips, deputy city manager, said the project is progressing incrementally as funding becomes available and it makes sense.
In fact, the city received good news as construction of the Santa Fe Road grade-separated pedestrian under crossing was placed out to bid by SANDAG Aug. 30. 
“The project is the first of four grade-separated pedestrian under crossings that are planned for the rail corridor that runs through Encinitas,” Phillips said in a e-mail to the City Council. “Part of the Santa Fe project includes construction of a small portion, 220-feet of the rail trail just south of the under crossing site.”
Planning of the project began in 2002 with a settlement agreement between the city and the North County Transit District, the agency responsible for the area on both sides of the railroad tracks. It was contingent upon obtaining a funding commitment from the State for preliminary design and engineering according to Phillips. 
“The city and SANDAG partnered in the project, with the city taking the lead in design approval and environmental documentation phase and SANDAG on the construction phase,” he said. 
Funding for the project comes from various sources including $1.25 million in city funds.
With so many entities involved in the planning and implementation process, the long timeline is not unreasonable to officials.
But, many avid cyclists are losing patience. “I’ve been hearing about linking trails for 10 years and I haven’t seen much progress,” said Connor Burquist, who stopped for a brief rest during his 15-mile bike ride up the coast from San Diego. “I would love to take my kids on a ride along the ocean without worrying about traffic and safety,” he said.
“It’s really something that would add to the quality of life to have an entire stretch of trails.”
Phillips said the completion of the railroad crossings is an important part of the equation when it comes to linking the various coastal trails.
“The purpose of the grade-separated pedestrian crossings is to improve pedestrian access and circulation across the rail corridor and improve rail and pedestrian safety conditions,” he said.
Bids are due in October, with construction estimated to take between eight to 12 months to complete.

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