Twenty feet from the front door of a stone-fronted Del Mar home, just south of the San Dieguito River, sits a white-wooden structure that houses railroad utilities. The structure marks the spot where North County Transit District officials, with the support of management at the Del Mar Fairgrounds, propose placing a temporary train stop for Thoroughbred buffs and visitors to the fairgrounds.
The proposed train terminus, expected to be completed in a year, will be the drop-off and pickup point for both the lucky and unlucky, the sober and intoxicated.
The residents living in the beachside homes adjacent to the stop feel that they are the losers in the deal.
With next year's closure of Hollywood Park Racetrack and more meets coming to Del Mar, the number of people riding trains bound for the fairgrounds will increase. The new stop and the additional meets at Del Mar means more noise for those living near the train tracks.
In early August, 29 Del Mar residents looking to fix the issue signed a petition to abandon the temporary train stop and jockey for a permanent stop north of the San Dieguito River, on the west side of the racetrack.
"We find such a proposal inadequate and dysfunctional to our interests in every respect. Both SANDAG and [North County Transit District] should cooperate and collaborate in a productive manner to facilitate the development and implementation of the permanent train stop," read the petition addressed to Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, SANDAG, City of Solana Beach, City of Del Mar, and the Del Mar Fairgrounds.
The permanent stop has been included in the master plan for the fairgrounds since 1985 but because of funding has been put out to pasture in favor of a faster solution.
Deputy Manager for the Del Mar Fairgrounds, Becky Bartling, believes funding for a permanent stop is a long shot. "The cost of replacing the bridge and double tracking from south of the river to Solana Beach is estimated to be $80 million," writes Bartling in an August 23 email. "SANDAG and North County Transit District do not anticipate that any funding for this project would be available for at least ten years."
When asked whether the 22nd District Agricultural Association, the body that governs the fairgrounds, has received the signed petition, Bartling responded that her agency has not received any such petition.
Bartling added that although a permanent stop north of the river is preferred, until funding is found, a temporary platform south of the San Dieguito River is the next best thing.
"These residents will be the beneficiaries of less traffic in their community as a result of the temporary rail platform south of the river. We are confident that careful consideration will be taken to minimize any impact to the residents in the vicinity of the platform."
Alex Wiggins, spokesperson for the North County Transit District, the lead agency behind the temporary stop, did not respond to this correspondent's questions.