The Coast News Group
North County Transit District and SANDAG are working to replace the 96-year-old wooden trestle San Dieguito Railway River Bridge, add 1.1 miles of second mainline rail track south of Solana Beach and add a special events platform at the Del Mar Fairgrounds. A public scoping meeting for the project will be held from 6 to 8 p.m. at Del Mar Hills Academy Jan. 22. Photo by Bianca Kaplanek

Planning under way for fairgrounds train platform

DEL MAR — A decades-long plan to build a seasonal train platform at the Del Mar Fairgrounds could potentially come to fruition in our lifetimes, according to one member of the 22nd District Agricultural Association board of directors. 

“I was very surprised to see how far along (this project) is,” Dave Watson said during the Jan. 8 meeting.

In addition to the platform, which would be used by Coaster and Amtrak trains, the project will include replacing the 96-year-old wooden trestle San Dieguito Railway River Bridge and adding slightly more than 1 mile of second mainline rail track south of Solana Beach, according to the SANDAG website.

The existing bridge, built in 1916, is near the end of its service life and requires expensive and frequent maintenance.

It also needs to be raised to meet federal requirements to avoid floods that could result in damage or failure.

It has not yet been decided whether the bridge will have one double-track structure or two single-tracks, but the capacity for at least one new track will be provided before the existing bridge is demolished.

Possible other improvements include new turnouts, signals, retained embankments and drainage facilities.

Some realignment of the tracks is being considered to accommodate the improvements and future rail needs.

The new bridge and tracks will be elevated above the 100-year flood plain to reduce potential damage to the line during severe storms.

The second main track will start in Solana Beach, just south of Dahlia Street, and continue 1.1 miles south across the San Dieguito Lagoon, resulting in a continuous 2.8-mile stretch of double track.

Double tracking will eliminate a bottleneck between Solana Beach and Del Mar.

Once the project is complete trains won’t have to idle at a siding to allow other trains to pass.

The platform will accommodate trains with up to 10 cars and is expected to attract about 2,700 riders a day during the fair and horse races.

A universal track crossover also will be installed between the tracks, allowing trains to reach the new platform from either direction.

Total cost for the double tracking, bridge replacement and special event platform is estimated to be $100 million.

SANDAG and the California Department of Transportation have $2.6 million from TransNet and $6.9 million in Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act funds from the Federal Railroad Administration for the $9.5 million needed for preliminary design and environmental studies, which are currently under way and expected to take one year to complete.

Construction funding has not been identified.

“There is no firm date or contract that has been awarded for construction,” said Matt Tucker, executive director of North County Transit District.

A public hearing is set for Jan. 22 from 6 to 8 p.m. at Del Mar Heights Academy, 14085 Mango Drive.