The Coast News Group
Community Commentary Encinitas Opinion

Rolling Encinitas forward with the Coastal Rail Trail

The new Coastal Rail Trail along San Elijo Avenue will connect our communities along the rail corridor, providing safer and more accessible routes for walking or biking to the beach and town centers.

The project includes long-overdue improvements the city has been contemplating for years. In addition to the rail trail, the Encinitas City Council has accelerated building a Montgomery Avenue pedestrian crossing at-grade over the railroad tracks, along with a traffic light and crosswalk across Highway 101. We are also working to quiet the train horns at both the new Montgomery crossing and Chesterfield Avenue.

All these moving parts have created great debate, with some proposing that a preferred alternative is to leave the rail corridor alone and just improve the bike and pedestrian facilities that already exist on Highway 101. The three City Councilmembers who support the combination of projects (Tony Kranz, Catherine S. Blakespear and Lisa Shaffer) feel strongly that the right location for the trail is east of the tracks, on the side where people live. This placement will create a new walking and biking corridor that doesn’t currently exist.

To us, the benefits of the combined projects are clear: significant road and safety improvements at Chesterfield, a legal and safe crossing at Montgomery providing beach access, a paved bike path and decomposed granite running trail between Chesterfield and G Street, improved parking along San Elijo and across from Cardiff School, and the pursuit of a quiet zone throughout the entire corridor to permanently quiet train horns (like the quiet zones throughout downtown San Diego). The quiet zone alone will dramatically improve the quality of life for hundreds of residents who live near the tracks and tolerate train blasts at all hours of the day and night.

While the rail corridor in its undeveloped state has many lovely qualities, it does not adequately serve most residents. In many long stretches, pedestrians and bikers are mixing with cars in an unimproved dirt parking lot next to a steep bluff and a busy road. Walking, riding, or pushing a stroller there is not just unsafe, it’s unpleasant. We can do better.

In building the rail trail, the sand dunes to the south will be preserved, many of the trees will remain, and great care is being taken to integrate the trail into the existing natural environment.

Infrastructure projects always come with trade-offs and cost money. One tradeoff, which the railroad requires, is the installation of a 4-foot post and cable fence. While we wish this wasn’t required, no city has been able to avoid installation of a fence when improving the rail corridor.

Regarding the costs, the city is pursing these improvements in the most cost effective way possible. About $5.1 million of “use it or lose it” regional money is being paired with about $1.5 million of city money. There is no better or more cost-effective approach.

We are excited about this project that will provide better connectivity between residents throughout the city, especially in Cardiff and historic Encinitas. We believe the Coastal Rail Trail will become an Encinitas gem that we can all enjoy together.

Catherine S. Blakespear and Tony Kranz are Encinitas City Councilmembers who can be reached at [email protected] and [email protected] For more information please visit or


bythesea February 1, 2016 at 4:21 pm

Anyone who lives on San Elijo south of Chesterfield (mentioned by Michael Verdu) knows that section can never be widened as being proposed north of Chesterfield. All the traffic will be pushed off San Elijo to highway 101 before Chesterfield. There is currently a crossing at Chesterfield for beach access and the rail trail wouldn’t help Mr. Verdu to walk to Cardiff market since he lives beyond Chesterfield.
The widening of San Elijo violates policies of the General Plan.
No more concrete. No to the widening of San Elijo. No to the rail plan.

Michael Verdu January 31, 2016 at 4:14 pm

As a member of the Friends of the Cardiff Rail Trail, I know that this community improvement is wanted by a quiet majority in Cardiff and Encinitas as a whole. We have over 1,100 supporters who can’t wait for this trail to be built – and we add more names every day.

People want a safe, accessible, and pleasant route along the rail corridor so they can walk, run, and ride bikes. People also want to get to the beach and back without exposing themselves to trains going 70mph, $500+ misdemeanor tickets, and busy traffic on Rte 101. The rail trail will combine beautifully with the new crossing at Montgomery (which includes a pedestrian crossing on Rte 101), the improved crossing at Chesterfield, and the existing underpass at Santa Fe to create a network of trails and safe, legal crossings.

I wish the tracks could be trenched as Nici suggests, but the cost would be in the hundreds of millions of dollars and just isn’t feasible. So, we have to improve the rail corridor we currently have. That means trails and crossings.

As for the concerns about concrete and retaining walls that will cause Cardiff to end up looking like Orange County or Manhattan Beach, all I can say is that there is way too much rhetoric being thrown around. The opposition is painting an apocalyptic vision of a concrete hellscape that bears no resemblance to the actual trail that is being planned. In reality, our new pedestrian and bike path will wind through the natural areas to the south, opening them up to many more people of different ages and abilities. Wildflowers will still bloom around the trail. The sand dunes won’t be destroyed. The trail will complement and not replace the natural features. And to the north, the pristine landscape that’s being defended so ardently is simply a dirt parking lot by the side of a very busy road. The trail will be a huge improvement here. I live on San Elijo just south of Chesterfield and I think we can do a lot better than what we have now. I want my 76 year old dad and my two young god-daughters to be able to walk to the beach, to downtown Encinitas, or to the Cardiff market areas. They can’t now. They will be able to once the trail is built.

Let’s move forward.

Ronette Youmans January 31, 2016 at 3:33 pm

I support the Cardiff Rail Trail and I know so many folks in my neighborhood who have been wanting a safer way to bicycle and walk in our fair city. I trust the well-researched decision by Council members Kranz, Shaffer and Blakespeare who say that a fence will
be eventually built anyway (as NCTD has publicly stated). I also support a new at-grade railroad and road crossing at Montgomery, which alleviate the problems with safe and legal beach access, eliminating the need for residents to run across the tracks and then Route 101. The improved pedestrian and bike safety (and access) is a trade-off worth making.

Nici Asten January 31, 2016 at 3:10 pm

Rather than supporting a rail trail and crossings that benefit the relatively few people who would use them, the council members should get the brains and political courage to support dropping the tracks below grade from the San Elijo Lagoon to the Batiquitos Lagoon. That would benefit everybody who lives in, passes through or visits Encinitas. It would also benefit the local economy. The funding is there to be had. It’s in SANDAG’s plan to expand the I-5 freeway. Move the money from the road to the rail corridor.

Supporting the rail trail and piecemealing rail crossings is another example of misguided, shortsighted, woodenheaded thinking by elected officials. You folks ought to get your heads screwed on straight and do something smart for a change.

bythesea January 31, 2016 at 1:29 pm

The named rail trail is a widening of San Elijo Avenue to put in two five feet wide concrete sidewalks and a 3 feet wide gravel sidewalk, next to San Elijo Avenue. To construct this the bluffs must be “reshaped” or cut down and held up with concrete walls. More and more concrete over the bluffs. The sensitive native environment will be destroyed. All done by three Council member votes – Kranz, Blakespear, and Shaffer.

Do we as a community want to look like Huntington Beach or Manhattan Beach? Council members Kranz, Blakespear, and Shaffer want it to happen.

More information on what will be destroyed can be found here:

Jennifer Benedict January 24, 2016 at 11:13 am

I vote No “asphalt or cement” trail”, what’s wrong with having a green belt along the tracks & preserve a little bit of NATURAL COASTLINE in SoCalifornia ??? Spend the 8 mil on improving the ped/bike lane already existing on 101- where everyone wants to be anyway ! For the ocean view

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