The Coast News Group
Early morning LOSSAN rail corridor commuters await the COASTER train at Poinsettia Station in Carlsbad. Courtesy photo
Marketplace News

The regional importance of the LOSSAN coastal rail corridor

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Caltrans and SANDAG are in the first phase of construction of the North Coast Corridor (NCC) Program, a 40-year, $6 billion balanced set of highway, rail, environmental, and bike/pedestrian mobility and coastal access projects that span the coastal region from approximately State Route 52 (SR 52) in La Jolla to State Route 76 (SR 76) in Oceanside.

Altogether, the NCC Program’s approach to multimodal improvements and environmental resource enhancements brings to life a comprehensive corridor vision that addresses gaps in the regional transportation network, improves mobility, increases coastal access, protects sensitive resources, strengthens the local and regional economy, and enhances quality of life.

The NCC Program is one of the first regional and statewide programs to use this systems-based approach to address mobility and quality of life issues within a set corridor, in such a holistic way.

An integral part of this vision focuses on rail line infrastructure and system improvements to the Los Angeles-San Diego-San Luis Obispo (LOSSAN) rail corridor, an important economic lifeline for the San Diego region and crucial link for national and international commerce.

The corridor is the second busiest intercity rail corridor in the nation, moving nearly 8 million passengers per year and approximately $1 billion worth of goods. It plays a vital role in our nation’s defense by providing rail access to the Pacific Fleet, a network of key military bases throughout San Diego County and the Port of San Diego.

Additionally, the corridor provides access to the region’s 43-miles of beaches and recreational areas at designated station platforms and rail crossings.

Caltrans and SANDAG are working in collaboration with North County Transit District (NCTD) to double-track nearly 94 percent of the 60-mile San Diego segment of the LOSSAN coastal rail corridor by 2035, and currently has 15 projects in various stages of planning, design, and construction from Orange County to Downtown San Diego. To date, close to 70 percent of the San Diego segment has been double-tracked.

On Monday, November 16, the California Transportation Commission (CTC) staff recommended $2 billion in new projects statewide from Senate Bill 1 funds. In total, SANDAG has been recommended to receive over $155 million for several key priority projects, including $106.4 million for the LOSSAN-SD Intermodal Improvement Program.

These funds will support continued rail capacity and safety improvements to move freight and commuters more efficiently, quickly, and reliably, thereby strengthening the LOSSAN coastal rail corridor as a competitive transportation option when compared to driving.

Approximately $36 million will go toward continued Del Mar Bluffs stabilization and reinforcement efforts by minimizing the chances of track damage due to natural bluff retreat and seismic events. The CTC is expected to vote on the funding at their December 2-3 meeting.

Improving the rail corridor is necessary to support and facilitate smart growth throughout the NCC, as well as support local, regional, and state climate action goals for minimizing energy consumption, reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and reducing vehicle miles traveled (VMT).

These efforts align with SANDAG’s vision for the 2021 Regional Plan, which reimagines how people and goods could move throughout the region in the 21st century.

This vision is fundamentally shaped by five key strategies for mobility, collectively known as the 5 Big Moves — Complete Corridors, Transit Leap, Mobility Hubs, Flexible Fleets, and the Next OS.

Achieving these goals and visions will provide a variety of travel choices and options to residents and visitors in the decades to come, and beyond transportation, will benefit the NCC’s valuable coastal resources and curtail the effects of global climate change and sea-level rise by protecting sensitive habitat and open space areas from potential future development extending beyond the developed core of the NCC.