CARLSBAD — Community outreach and input have been gaining steam over the past several months regarding the railroad tracks running through Carlsbad Village and the Barrio.
Linda Culp, principal planner at SANDAG, outlined the options for the city, although they must also include approvals from SANDAG and the North County Transit District. She said SANDAG favors one of two trenching alternatives, rather than an at-grade improvement, which will include double-tracking as train traffic is expected to double in the next 20 years.
“Construction would be in phases to keep railroad operations in use,” Culp explained. “We use a temporary track, station platforms and maintain on-street parking.”
Councilwoman Priya Bhat-Patel, who sits on the NCTD board, noted the sizable difference between the short and long trenches. Both options start just south of Oceanside and the short trench ends before Tamarack Avenue, running 6,000 feet total, while the long trench extends past Tamarack Avenue and covers 8,400 feet.
The short trench is estimated to cost between $245 million to $265 million, while projections for the long trench range between $375 million to $395 million, Culp said. A study released in 2017 revealed the long trench had a much higher return on the local economy.
Project leaders, including at SANDAG and city of Carlsbad, are still researching funding opportunities for the next stage, which includes environmental studies. To be shovel ready would be several years away, Bhat-Patel said.
Culp said environmental reviews could take between two and three years, the earthwork eight to 12 months and four years for total construction.
Culp said the LOSSAN (Los Angeles-San Diego- San Luis Obispo) Rail Corridor has received $884 million in funding over the past 12 years for improvements and double-tracking.
“We are looking for grant opportunities,” said Hossein Ajideh, the city’s engineering manager. “The city has recently hired a grant writer and she’s brought a lot of good ideas, but we haven’t found any opportunities large enough.”
Both trench options would radically reshape the Village with a 26-foot deep and 55-foot wide trench, although Culp said if the trench were 24-feet deep, there would be “some cost savings.”
The project intends to replace the wooden railroad trench near Oceanside, along with installing six or seven overpasses (depending on the option), most notably at Carlsbad Village Drive and Chestnut Avenue. Those would allow for better beach access, traffic flow, pedestrian safety and public emergency access.
“The overpass at Chestnut is in both proposals, but only bike and pedestrian access for the short trench,” Culp said.
However, the project has its challenges such as a high water table, clearance, a shoefly track and reduced right-of-way after Tamarack, Culp said. She added the right-of-way decreases from 200 feet to 100 feet and two or three homes may be subject to eminent domain.