DEL MAR — The North County Transit District filed a new petition on Dec. 30 with the federal Surface Transportation Board seeking sole authority to proceed with the fencing project on the Del Mar bluffs.
The regional transit agency, or NCTD, originally filed the petition back in August 2020 seeking confirmation of its assertion that it has sole authority over railway matters when it comes to the railway tracks it owns, including bluff repairs and fencing of the track right-of-way.
The fencing project, however, continued to receive mounting backlash from the City of Del Mar and its residents. Del Mar’s own council members have been outspoken with their criticism of the project in council meetings and to media outlets.
In December 2020, NCTD, the City of Del Mar, and the California Coastal Commission came to an agreement to delay review by the STB “to allow the parties time to work in good faith to reach an agreement that would eliminate the need for a review and determination by the STB,” according to NCTD.
The deadline to reach an agreement was Dec. 31, 2021. The deadline has come and gone and, according to Matthew Tucker, NCTD’s executive director, they are moving forward in seeking sole authority.
“Our approach throughout this process has been to work constructively and collaboratively to develop a community-sensitive solution for the bluffs that promotes rail safety and ensures reliability while providing safe and legal access. Unfortunately, our extensive discussions with the City of Del Mar and the Coastal Commission did not result in an agreement. The NCTD Board will consider final project approval at its January 20, 2022 meeting. At the Board’s direction, we are also seeking an expedited determination from the Surface Transportation Board,” Tucker said in a statement provided to The Coast News.
The NCTD created the fencing plan to reduce deaths and injuries caused by those trespassing on the tracks. According to the original NCTD petition, there have been 112 fatalities along the Coaster rail line since 2010, including eight in Del Mar since 2014.
The City of Del Mar and opponents of the project argue that the fencing would erode the bluffs, block ocean views and restrict access to the beach. Many also argue that the project is no longer necessary as the newly approved SANDAG transportation plan aims to move the tracks into an underground tunnel by 2035.
In October, NCTD unveiled a 4-foot-tall fence design to be more “community sensitive,” scaled down from the original 6-foot-tall design, but the city and community still weren’t sold.
“Despite significant efforts by NCTD to address the parties’ concerns, negotiations have not been successful. As a result, NCTD sees no choice but to proceed with this matter in an expedited manner to resolve the disputes at issue,” the renewed petition reads in part.
The NCTD board will consider approval of construction of the Del Mar fence at its board meeting on Jan. 20.