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City, SANDAG agree to MOU on Cardiff trail

ENCINITAS — Encinitas and the region’s transportation agency have agreed to a path forward on the controversial Cardiff segment of the Coastal Rail Trail.

The City Council voted on its consent calendar to approve a memorandum of understanding between the city and the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG), which clears the way for both agencies to resume work on the rail trail, which had been halted as the two sides determined a path forward.

Both agencies agreed to pursue the trail alignment along Coast Highway 101, which the council has deemed the preferred alignment after a large group of Cardiff residents campaigned to have the alignment along 101 and not along the east side of the railroad tracks.

But, as opposed to previous iterations of the agreement, SANDAG agreed to share some of the responsibility in the event the sides can’t pursue the 101 alignment due to bluff instability or disapproval from the California Coastal Commission.

Previously, SANDAG wanted the city to carry all of the financial liability in the event the alignment wasn’t approved. Now, the city’s financial liability is capped at $250,000.

“This is a much better memorandum,” said Councilwoman Catherine Blakespear, who had harshly criticized the previous proposal.

Still, the project faces significant hurdles. The Coastal Commission’s staff has signaled that it doesn’t support the western alignment because it was not part of a large plan that the agency adopted that covered a suite of projects, including freeway widening and the double tracking of the rail corridor in North County.

Another issue recently discovered is that coastal bluff instability could also make the project unfeasible on the Highway 101 side.

The two sides agreed in the MOU that the city would not be financially liable if bluff instability was the reason the project did not move forward.

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