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Angst in Del Mar over underground train tunnels

Environmental report lays out three options

To reroute trains off the eroding Del Mar bluffs, officials are trying to figure out where to put the underground tunnels that will run 300 feet deep in some parts of the city.

While the 1.7 mile LOSSAN Rail Realignment will also take place in portions of Solana Beach and San Diego, Del Mar is ground zero. Those who live there, worried about air pollution, sinkholes, noise, vibration, an active earthquake fault, and losing their homes have opposed most of the locations proposed so far.

To win more support for the project, which is expected to cost at least $4 billion dollars, the San Diego Association of Governments came up with more than a dozen options. Three of them have now been chosen for further study in a draft Environmental Impact Report the agency is preparing with the goal of producing a final version in 2026. 


A notice of preparation for the report describes the three alternatives along Interstate 5, Crest Canyon, and Camino Del Mar. Each one would require a north and south portal, a tunnel connecting the portals, and double tracking of the rail line. 

Favored by Del Mar is the I-5 alignment, a nearly seven- mile stretch that would descend just south of the Solana Beach Station, enter the Fairgrounds North Portal, continue south into the fairgrounds, then travel under the San Dieguito Lagoon to the west side of I-5.

Far less appealing to locals because it would affect many homes is the 5.3 mile long Crest Canyon Alignment that would descend south of the rail bridge over the San Dieguito Lagoon, enter the Jimmy Durante Boulevard North Portal, and continue southeast to exit at the knoll adjacent to I-5. The tracks would then rise as it transitions back into the existing railway north of the Sorrento Valley station. 

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A third option is Camino Del Mar. Nearly five miles long, it would also descend south of the rail bridge over the lagoon and enter a portal near the intersection of Jimmy Durante Boulevard and Camino Del Mar. It would exit from a southern portal at Torrey Pines Road and Carmel Valley Road onto a bridge over the Los Peñasquitos Lagoon. It would then transition back to the existing track. 

Del Martians say the I-5 alignment under the Del Mar Fairgrounds and San Dieguito Lagoon is the only route that "disturbs no one," as one comment to the city reads.

The second option, Crest Canyon, would demolish homes, while the third would destroy Los Penasquitos lagoon "with a forever double track."

Those weighing in wondered if the hillside above Camino Del Mar, with a composition similar to the bluffs, would be able to handle the double tracked trains. Where will the runoff that gets absorbed by the hillside go when huge tunnels are built there?

SANDAG’s notice of preparation for its upcoming environmental report initiates a 45-day comment period when local agencies and residents can provide their written feedback. A public meeting will be held Tuesday from 6:00 – 7:30 p.m. at the San Diego Marriott Del Mar, 11966 El Camino Real.

The Coalition for Safer Trains, a local advocacy group, has submitted questions like why build a project with a 100- to 150-year lifespan in a floodplain with documented sea level rise and erosion?

The group is asking the agency to show the exact addresses of residential and commercial property expected to be taken by eminent domain for each portal option. Fifty homes are at risk, they say, and there are about 51 acres of home dwellers who will be over a tunnel, according to a study in 2017.

At a council meeting on Monday, Councilmember Dwight Worden said it's unlikely the agency will address eminent domain in the environmental report. But if it can be shown that a project splits a community, as this one surely does, the city would have more leverage. 

"Most of the impacts are coming to us."

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To reroute trains off the eroding Del Mar bluffs, officials are trying to figure out where to put the underground tunnels that will run 300 feet deep in some parts of the city.

While the 1.7 mile LOSSAN Rail Realignment will also take place in portions of Solana Beach and San Diego, Del Mar is ground zero. Those who live there, worried about air pollution, sinkholes, noise, vibration, an active earthquake fault, and losing their homes have opposed most of the locations proposed so far.

To win more support for the project, which is expected to cost at least $4 billion dollars, the San Diego Association of Governments came up with more than a dozen options. Three of them have now been chosen for further study in a draft Environmental Impact Report the agency is preparing with the goal of producing a final version in 2026. 


A notice of preparation for the report describes the three alternatives along Interstate 5, Crest Canyon, and Camino Del Mar. Each one would require a north and south portal, a tunnel connecting the portals, and double tracking of the rail line. 

Favored by Del Mar is the I-5 alignment, a nearly seven- mile stretch that would descend just south of the Solana Beach Station, enter the Fairgrounds North Portal, continue south into the fairgrounds, then travel under the San Dieguito Lagoon to the west side of I-5.

Far less appealing to locals because it would affect many homes is the 5.3 mile long Crest Canyon Alignment that would descend south of the rail bridge over the San Dieguito Lagoon, enter the Jimmy Durante Boulevard North Portal, and continue southeast to exit at the knoll adjacent to I-5. The tracks would then rise as it transitions back into the existing railway north of the Sorrento Valley station. 

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A third option is Camino Del Mar. Nearly five miles long, it would also descend south of the rail bridge over the lagoon and enter a portal near the intersection of Jimmy Durante Boulevard and Camino Del Mar. It would exit from a southern portal at Torrey Pines Road and Carmel Valley Road onto a bridge over the Los Peñasquitos Lagoon. It would then transition back to the existing track. 

Del Martians say the I-5 alignment under the Del Mar Fairgrounds and San Dieguito Lagoon is the only route that "disturbs no one," as one comment to the city reads.

The second option, Crest Canyon, would demolish homes, while the third would destroy Los Penasquitos lagoon "with a forever double track."

Those weighing in wondered if the hillside above Camino Del Mar, with a composition similar to the bluffs, would be able to handle the double tracked trains. Where will the runoff that gets absorbed by the hillside go when huge tunnels are built there?

SANDAG’s notice of preparation for its upcoming environmental report initiates a 45-day comment period when local agencies and residents can provide their written feedback. A public meeting will be held Tuesday from 6:00 – 7:30 p.m. at the San Diego Marriott Del Mar, 11966 El Camino Real.

The Coalition for Safer Trains, a local advocacy group, has submitted questions like why build a project with a 100- to 150-year lifespan in a floodplain with documented sea level rise and erosion?

The group is asking the agency to show the exact addresses of residential and commercial property expected to be taken by eminent domain for each portal option. Fifty homes are at risk, they say, and there are about 51 acres of home dwellers who will be over a tunnel, according to a study in 2017.

At a council meeting on Monday, Councilmember Dwight Worden said it's unlikely the agency will address eminent domain in the environmental report. But if it can be shown that a project splits a community, as this one surely does, the city would have more leverage. 

"Most of the impacts are coming to us."

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