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Train Traffic Stopped to Build Pedestrian Undercrossing in Encinitas

To build the pedestrian undercrossing, 24 pre-constructed forms, weighing up to 20 tons each, needed to be dropped into place and welded together.
To build the pedestrian undercrossing, 24 pre-constructed forms, weighing up to 20 tons each, needed to be dropped into place and welded together.

After the passing of the last northbound Coaster train from downtown on Friday night, September 7, Amtrak, Coaster, and freight-train service was suspended between Oceanside and San Diego.

Shortly after midnight, September 8, about 50 feet of train track in Encinitas, at Santa Fe Drive, were ripped up. Once removed, crews began installing heavy concrete and steel forms that will make a bridge allowing for a pedestrian undercrossing.

The 24 pre-constructed forms, weighing up to 20 tons each, needed to be dropped into place and welded together. Throughout the day Saturday, a 200-ton crane picked up the forms off of a continuous line of waiting semi-trucks parked on Coast Hwy. 101.

Rotating crews have worked the entire time the tracks have been closed. Although a project by the City of Encinitas and the owners of the tracks — North County Transit District — the construction is being coordinated by the San Diego Association of Governments.

By 5:00 p.m. Saturday, SANDAG's director of communications, Colleen Windsor, said they were on schedule and expected the tracks to be operational by Monday, September 10, at 5:00 a.m., in time for morning commuters on the Coaster.

Amtrak's Pacific Surfliner trains were still arriving at the Oceanside station from L.A. and returning north, on schedule. Passengers could reach the downtown San Diego station by buses provided by Amtrak. The Coaster is not providing alternative service during the outage.

The $5.9 million project is part of a $25.7 million plan to construct four pedestrian undercrossings in the city. The remaining three, at Hillcrest Drive in Leucadia, El Portal Street in Encinitas, and Montgomery Avenue in Cardiff, have yet to be funded.

SANDAG rendering of Encinitas pedestrian undercrossing from keepsandiegomoving.com

Many in the community have called the undercrossings a huge waste of tax money (as reported in my Reader story of May 11, 2011). Citizens pointed out that residents have been safely crossing the coastal railroad tracks for almost 150 years. With over 50 trains a day, it is illegal to walk on railroad property or cross the tracks.

Community opposition subsided a little when engineering plans called for the track's bridge to form an open walkway under the tracks. A closed in, under-track tunnel, as used in other cities, reportedly attracts nighttime crime and sleeping transients.

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To build the pedestrian undercrossing, 24 pre-constructed forms, weighing up to 20 tons each, needed to be dropped into place and welded together.
To build the pedestrian undercrossing, 24 pre-constructed forms, weighing up to 20 tons each, needed to be dropped into place and welded together.

After the passing of the last northbound Coaster train from downtown on Friday night, September 7, Amtrak, Coaster, and freight-train service was suspended between Oceanside and San Diego.

Shortly after midnight, September 8, about 50 feet of train track in Encinitas, at Santa Fe Drive, were ripped up. Once removed, crews began installing heavy concrete and steel forms that will make a bridge allowing for a pedestrian undercrossing.

The 24 pre-constructed forms, weighing up to 20 tons each, needed to be dropped into place and welded together. Throughout the day Saturday, a 200-ton crane picked up the forms off of a continuous line of waiting semi-trucks parked on Coast Hwy. 101.

Rotating crews have worked the entire time the tracks have been closed. Although a project by the City of Encinitas and the owners of the tracks — North County Transit District — the construction is being coordinated by the San Diego Association of Governments.

By 5:00 p.m. Saturday, SANDAG's director of communications, Colleen Windsor, said they were on schedule and expected the tracks to be operational by Monday, September 10, at 5:00 a.m., in time for morning commuters on the Coaster.

Amtrak's Pacific Surfliner trains were still arriving at the Oceanside station from L.A. and returning north, on schedule. Passengers could reach the downtown San Diego station by buses provided by Amtrak. The Coaster is not providing alternative service during the outage.

The $5.9 million project is part of a $25.7 million plan to construct four pedestrian undercrossings in the city. The remaining three, at Hillcrest Drive in Leucadia, El Portal Street in Encinitas, and Montgomery Avenue in Cardiff, have yet to be funded.

SANDAG rendering of Encinitas pedestrian undercrossing from keepsandiegomoving.com

Many in the community have called the undercrossings a huge waste of tax money (as reported in my Reader story of May 11, 2011). Citizens pointed out that residents have been safely crossing the coastal railroad tracks for almost 150 years. With over 50 trains a day, it is illegal to walk on railroad property or cross the tracks.

Community opposition subsided a little when engineering plans called for the track's bridge to form an open walkway under the tracks. A closed in, under-track tunnel, as used in other cities, reportedly attracts nighttime crime and sleeping transients.

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1

You just cannot make some folks happy. Encinitas has complained bitterly about the grade level crossings it has at Leucadia Blvd, and those near old downtown. Instead of spending all this money on a purely pedestrian crossing, it should have aimed to put in some sort of overpass at Leucadia Blvd that could also handle pedestrians. And it if really thinks a pedestrian crossing is needed in those other locations, why not put them OVER the tracks, instead of beneath? That sort of structure is cheaper, would not require shutting the railroad down for two days, and would be visible from both ends. (Much harder for sneaky folks to hide on a bridge than in a tunnel.) But that's present day California for you--find the most costly way to do something, rather than the cheapest and most effective.

And this boondoggle shut down Amtrak's second-busiest rail route in the nation for over two days, forcing the use of buses. Just great!

Sept. 9, 2012

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