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What a new train tunnel in Del Mar might look like. Photo courtesy SANDAG
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Planners give preliminary analysis for Del Mar train tunnel

DEL MAR — The western or central part of Del Mar might best accommodate a new train tunnel, regional transit planners told North County Transit District directors at their April 22 meeting.

Del Mar residents and elected officials, citing seaside bluff collapses and residential neighborhoods’ interrupted access to the beach, have long considered removing existing tracks from the bluffs a top political priority. The project would likely cost several billions of dollars, the sources of which have not yet been identified.

“Before a train could run through a new tunnel, we’ll have to raise a bunch of revenue, and then many years will go by” for construction, said North County Transit District Chair and Encinitas City Councilman Tony Kranz. “A focus on stabilizing the bluffs for an extended period of time (in the interim) is very important.”

“Pending funding — and that’s a big statement to start with — engineering and environmental review could take in the ballpark of five years, plus another five years for construction,” said Linda Culp of SANDAG, a regional transpiration planning agency.

“We’ve been working with Congressman Levin’s office for some additional funding,” she said.

The alternatives indicated in red and yellow show the most promise for a proposed new train tunnel in Del Mar, a preliminary analysis suggests. Photo courtesy SANDAG

A preliminary analysis, underway since last fall, has considered five Del Mar tunnel alternatives: one along Camino Del Mar in the city’s western third, three in Crest Canyon and running through the city’s middle third, and one along I-5 in the city’s eastern third.

The analysis suggests future planning should focus on the Camino Del Mar and one of the Crest Canyon alternatives, Culp said. Though much remains unknown at this early stage, the Camino Del Mar option may incur the lowest capital costs, allow for faster trains and minimize passenger travel times. The I-5 alternative scored the lowest in many of the preliminary analysis’ categories, including environmental consequences, capital costs and railroad operations impacts during construction.

Removing the tracks from the Del Mar bluffs could require about 1.5 miles of elevated track structure approaching a new tunnel’s entry/exit portal, depending on tunnel design.

“For example, if you’re coming south and you go through the tunnel … and you’re in Los Penasquitos Lagoon, then very likely that segment of track for some distance would be elevated above the lagoon. It’d be up on a structure above grade,” Culp said.

Planners expect to complete the Del Mar tunnel alternatives analysis by this summer and cost estimates and an implementation plan by spring 2022.

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