DEL MAR — SANDAG presented several different possible realignment plans to the city of Del Mar this week for the moving of the railroad tracks off of the Del Mar bluffs in the future.
Five realignment proposals were presented under SANDAG’s most recent study on the rail track, all of which include some form of tunneling to take place to move the tracks inland and away from the unstable bluffs.
SANDAG also gave evaluation scores to the different realignment proposals with the highest scores going to railway alignments along Camino Del Mar and underneath Crest Canyon.
Councilman Dave Drucker was pleased with the presentation especially with how long he has waited for these plans to become more concrete.
“I’ve been waiting for this for more than 25 years now,” Drucker said. “So let’s continue on and get this together and get this funded.”
All of the proposed realignments would actually cut travel times, according to a SANDAG study.
Today, a trip from Solana Beach to the Old Town station on the Coaster can take 31 minutes. That time could be cut by up to three minutes at least with the proposed realignments as there will not be a speed restriction for trains passing over the bluffs as they currently sit.
“We found similar improvements in travel time with the limited-stop or the Amtrak service,” said Linda Culp, the principal planner for rail projects for SANDAG.
These plans are still preliminary with full cost estimates and a plan for implementation not expected until the Spring of 2022 at the earliest.
SANDAG still has several analyses to complete in regards to tunneling for more final plans can be proposed and implemented. Any future phases of the project are pending more funding.
“We’re working with our federal delegation, with our state delegation so we will continue to look for future funding for those phases,” said Culp.
Funding could possibly come from the federal level with the American Jobs Plan, the federal infrastructure bill that will be in front of Congress at some point in the future. Mayor Terry Gaasterland brought up the possibility of getting funds from there to help get this project complete.
“If there is any possibility of us getting funds from the American Jobs Act, which is those infrastructure funds, then let’s go for it,” Gaasterland said. “I really hope we can get that funding.”
Deputy Mayor Dwight Worden expressed some minor concerns that Del Mar could be left unfairly dealing with an issue that affects the entire region.
“To the extent that I have any anxiety at all about this program it is that there is a great regional need and support to do this but when it gets down to the details of how we do it, it’s gonna fall more on Del Mar then anybody else cause it’s our backyard,” Worden said.
A possible by-product of the boring of the tunnels could be beach-quality sand that could possibly be used in future beach replenishment projects that the city could start in the future. However, it is unclear the amount of beach-quality sand that could be found and used.
“It’s certainly something for us to monitor and continue to study,” Culp said. “But it is definitely something that is encouraging that we’ll be sure to keep an eye on.”