The Coast News Group

Letter: Why tunnel under Del Mar?

Dear Editor,

I see that the first down payment has been made on the multi-billion-dollar project for the Del Mar rail realignment project. I can understand why a group of politicians who make up SANDAG would like to handle the money, but why do they get to decide which path to choose unless the choice is to be more political than logical or fiscally responsible?

They may have been given a list of likely routes and engineering requirements for each option up front, but they get to make the final decision, not a group of scientists and engineers.

Based on their recent support on mileage taxes for all road vehicles, many would think that their thought processes and motives are suspect.

I believe that they have deliberately omitted the most obvious, simplest option of all from consideration. The various options have been whittled down by them to about three tunnels under or around Del Mar.

All these options suffer from unique serious problems, including noise and vibrations both during and after construction, as well as long-term disruptions to residents and businesses in the area.

No doubt, the engineering studies will uncover more problems that will add to the final cost and timeline. Remember the Big Dig in Boston? Earthquake mitigation has not made it to the headlines yet.

The simple solution to these problems that eliminate the need for most of these studies and complications is to forget about the tunnels and build the new set of rails on an elevated track essentially parallel to the existing track but a few yards closer to the ocean!

Elevated tracks have been used successfully all over the world, so there is nothing new here. The support columns would be spaced along the base of the bluffs, leaving them stress-free.

No fences are necessary, and surfers would have free access to the beach along the entire length of the realignment.

The new track could even be lowered several feet from the current track bed height to obscure the trains from nearby properties and reduce noise.

The impact on the beach is minimal because of the wide spacing of the columns and its appearance is not as important as it might first seem as beachgoers will have their backs to the track/bridge and it could be designed to blend in with the side of the bluffs.

As a bonus, the rail travelers get to keep a continuous view of the ocean.

It would be an absolute disgrace if the reason for eliminating this ‘external’ track option was because of some arbitrary, bureaucratic rules from an unelected body such as the Coastal Commission.

If that is the case, those rules need to be changed for the greater good. Let logic and common sense prevail for once.

This option has dramatic cost benefits and increased speed of completion and it is by far the most environmentally friendly design during and after construction.

There are ways to install the support columns without even disturbing the surrounding sand. Maybe the low cost and simplicity were factors working against it. Maybe something grander and more lucrative is needed for this once-in-a-lifetime local project.

Michael Featherby