ENCINITAS — Efforts to improve a troublesome railroad crossing at Chesterfield Drive and Coast Highway 101 received a major boost today when County Supervisor Dave Roberts announced the Federal Railroad Administration’s approval of a $2.2 million grant to improve the crossing.
“I’m so pleased that the federal transportation officials recognized the importance of these improvements,” said Roberts, whose district includes Encinitas. “They will go a long way toward keeping people safe.”
The grant was one of eight distributed by the FRA, totaling $21.2 million, to improve crossing safety and positive train control across the country.
The Chesterfield crossing is a critical one in Encinitas because it is the only legal crossing for more than 1 1/2 miles in both directions and is used by pedestrians, cyclists and motorists alike coming and going to and from the beach and state campgrounds.
The project will include replacing the free-flowing right-turn lanes and pedestrian islands with protected sidewalk bulb-outs, adding multi-use bike paths with a switchback to reduce the overall grade, widening the sidewalks and upgrading the crossing signals, gates and signs in the area around the crossing, as well as synchronizing the traffic signals in each direction.
While the project is within the bounds of a larger Coastal Rail Trail project that has been the source of some controversy in the Cardiff community, the Chesterfield crossing is independent of the larger project, said Chris Carterette of the San Diego Association of Governments, the regional transportation arm that is overseeing both projects.
The design of the Chesterfield project, however, is designed to seamlessly dovetail into the larger Coastal Rail Trail in Encinitas, which is a proposed 1.5-mile pedestrian and cyclist-friendly trail that will link Downtown Encinitas to Cardiff, either along Vulcan Avenue or Coast Highway 101.
“They are independent, but because they share the same project area, they are connected,” Carterette said. “Whenever we have the situation where we have two project that overlap, we always try to make sure they are working in unison to leave best result behind when they are done.
“What this is, is cutting out components from both projects that were designed to mesh and then applying for the FRA grant to fund the work of the union of the two projects,” Carterette said.
“This one is cool because it has multi-modal benefits because of the coastal rail,” he added,
Roberts lobbied for the funding in August 2014 in a letter to the FRA, in which he highlighted the importance of improving the crossing and the Pacific Surfliner railway corridor, which is the nation’s second busiest.
This story has been updated since its original posting.