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SANDAG is conducting a study on the best ways to move the train tracks in Del Mar, but the study is months from completion. Photo courtesy of SANDAG
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SANDAG affirms commitment to move tracks off Del Mar bluffs

DEL MAR — The San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG) reaffirmed its intent to move the train tracks off the bluffs in Del Mar at a recent City Council meeting, with a study on the potential project ongoing.

Since February, after the most recent major bluff collapse in Del Mar that was precariously close to the train tracks, advocates have continued to call for the tracks’ removal — for safety, ecological and even national security reasons. SANDAG, giving a presentation to the city of Del Mar on their “5 Big Moves” project recently, says it has made that project a priority moving forward.

“You can fight nature, but nature is going to win at the end of the day,” said Hasan Ikhrata, executive director of SANDAG. “We are absolutely intending to have part of the regional transportation plan in May release a project that would move the tracks off the bluff once and for all. Yes, it’s expensive, yes it’s going to take a long time, but that is the right thing to do for the region.”

In March, SANDAG and the North County Transit District were given $10.5 million to help complete repairs and reinforcement from the collapse in February. But to many, reinforcement is simply not the long-term solution to the ongoing problem at the bluffs.

“The bluff failures are getting all too common. And the reinforcement is appreciated, but we’re not going to have our natural bluff for much longer because it doesn’t look like a natural bluff once you reinforce it. So having that be a priority is really important to all of us,” Councilmember Tracy Martinez said.

Ikhrata agreed with Martinez, going on to say that he will not recommend any more half measures to solve the problem.

“I don’t think I’m going to recommend to the board any more temporary solutions to this. This region has to stand up and do the right thing and move the tracks for a lot of good reasons, economic, environmental and otherwise,” Ikhrata said.

One reason is national security. The tracks in question are part of the Strategic Rail Corridor Network (STRACNET) set up by the US Federal Railroad Administration. STRACNET consists of over 36,000 miles of railroad helping to connect 120 defense installations in the country.

SANDAG is currently conducting a study on the best ways to achieve the goal of moving the tracks, but it is still months from completion.

The discussion with the Del Mar City Council about moving the tracks is also part of SANDAG’s development of the 2021 regional plan that is ongoing. The plan consists of what SANDAG calls its “5 Big Moves” strategy, which includes completing transit corridors, creating a network of network of high-capacity and high-frequency transit services and Next OS, a cloud-based platform that collects transit data to provide more information to the public and transportation operators.

The regional plan is expected to be presented to the SANDAG board in May with adoption of the plan, including plans for the tracks in Del Mar, expected in the fall of this year.