What’s happened in our city in the last month is truly monumental. More than $100 million of infrastructure improvements have been completed and are now open for the public to enjoy.
These projects include:
- A new 1.3 mile Coastal Rail Trail from Chesterfield Drive to Santa Fe Drive that is fully separated from cars, with sweeping ocean views and cooling breezes;
- A new living shorelines dune system south of Cardiff’s restaurant row on Highway 101 with a dedicated walking path, disabled-accessible rubberized ramps, and rip-rap topped with 30,000 cubic yards of erodible sand dredged from the San Elijo Lagoon to provide native plant and animal habitat while protecting Highway 101 from storm surges;
- Chesterfield Drive intersection improvements and safety measures including new pedestrian gates that allowed us to quiet the train horns as they pass through the intersection. Removal of noise pollution is like a cloud lifting. Now train engineers blow their horns only if there’s a safety or other reason to do so.
- A new second track for the railroad line as it goes through the San Elijo Lagoon and into Cardiff, allowing two trains to pass in each direction at the same time,
- A new train bridge over the lagoon mouth entrance that allows better tidal flushing and is durable and safe. And the west-facing pillars spell out C-A-R-D-I-F-F!
This suite of projects is nothing short of phenomenal. Large infrastructure projects like this don’t come along very often. Some elements, such as the rail trail, were funded and organized by SANDAG, the region’s transportation agency. Other elements, like the quiet zone, were city-funded projects. And other projects, like the $2.5 million in new sand dunes, were funded almost entirely by federal and state grants, although the city was the responsible agency and city staff made it happen.
Agencies like the North County Transit District also played a large role because many of these projects are built on land they own and manage, with an active railroad running through it.
You may recall the community division when the rail trail was being designed and approved. I sure do – I still consider it the most difficult issue that I’ve been involved in since being elected. The takeaway for me is that we all live and learn. I made my first rail trail decision five months into my first term. Now coming up on five years in elected office, I’m better at managing open conflict and finding the right personal balance in my approach with others.
I’m heartened by every new example of the substantial expertise and commitment to quality that we see in government projects. I initially feared that the SANDAG-designed rail trail would be a soulless, overly-wide, concrete airstrip. In reality, the rail trail is tasteful, winding and charming, with an airy, open feel as it runs through wildflowers and undulating dunes. Parking is improved, and you no longer fear falling off the side of the cliff above the railroad tracks or being hit by oncoming cars.
It’s such a joy to walk or ride around Encinitas without the aggravation and peril of mixing with cars. I hope our new rail trail is the beginning of a great new era, with separated paths all over the city. Soon we’ll have a new road striping plan for Highway 101 headed into Solana Beach to improve safety for all users.
People are already using the rail trail path in every possible way. I recently spotted two older women in tennis shoes with walkers out exercising, a man carrying his dry cleaning as he walked home, a dad on a bike with a toddler in a front bike seat, pulling another daughter behind him on a skateboard, plus all the runners, bikers, dog walkers, scooters and parents with strollers.
In addition to my gratitude for regional and local professionals who created this, I’m tremendously appreciative to the community members who had vision, perseverance, and a willingness to devote the most valuable of all commodities to this project – their precious time.
If you haven’t come to Cardiff yet to check these things out, please consider taking a trip here to experience them!
Catherine Blakespear serves as Encinitas Mayor. She can be reached at [email protected]