Construction Begins on Cardiff Rail Trail

Bulldozer clearing a 30′-wide path near San Elijo Avenue

Next up on SANDAG’s Build NCC projects list is the controversial Cardiff portion of the Coastal Rail Trail (CRT).  Recently, crews began marking off the trail boundaries, clearing the path, and installing K-rail along San Elijo Ave.  During construction, expect to lose all street north of Verdi, and be prepared for frequent traffic delays during business hours. Completion is scheduled for early 2019.  Continue reading for a historical recap and the trail design.

A Rocky History for the CRT

2006 – SANDAG prepares a plan placing the CRT on the east side (between the RR tracks and San Elijo Ave.) and asks Encinitas for clearance to build it;

July 2006 – Cardiff residents strongly oppose east alignment. UT news article says rail trail east side “plan approval headed to the scrap heap.”  The then-City Council votes “no” to the plan.

2014 – SANDAG re-approaches Encinitas and asks again to build CRT on east side and holds public workshops. Hundreds of residents attend strongly opposing east alignment. SANDAG designs a west-side option along the 101, called the “Coast Hwy 101 alignment”, and asks City Council to choose an alignment:  west along 101 or east in the rail corridor.

May 2015 – City Council adopts east alignment over residents protests in a contentious 3:2 vote.

2015 – Preserve Cardiff Rail Corridor (initially No Rail Trail) is formed and blossoms to over 900 people, making the case that Coast Hwy 101 is the best alternative for the environment, beach access, lowest cost, and will serve the most pedestrians/cyclists.

March 2016 – City Council reverses decision and adopts Coast Hwy 101 as preferred CRT alignment with support from Preserve Cardiff, Bike Walk Encinitas, local businesses, Supervisor Gaspar, and San Elijo State Park.

Fall 2016 – SANDAG approves Coast Hwy 101 alignment.

2017 – Coastal Commission opposes change on administrative grounds and forces CRT back into the rail corridor, on the east side;  City Council takes no further action, accepting Coastal Commission decision.

Design Details

SANDAG has not hosted any community input meetings since 2014 but The Cardiff Current has obtained a copy of the construction plans (dated Nov. 2017) and with the assistance of a civil engineer, we now know:

12′ wide and concrete.  SANDAG and the media claim it’s 10′ wide but the plans clearly show a 12′ wide path which includes a 2′ shoulder of mixed-type concrete.  In the northern section, the 2′ shoulder is decomposed granite.

4’ high post and cable.  Beginning at Swami’s Undercrossing the fence is continuous with no breaks until Chesterfield Ave.; it will be 1′-10’ away from the path (see diagram for fence design).

Post & Cable Fence Specs – Click for full details

– Swami’s undercrossing to Cornish Drive: all west side parking will be replaced by the trail;
– Cornish Dr. down to about 1571 San Elijo Ave: there will be limited parallel parking with utility box ‘bump outs’;
– South of Verdi Ave:  street parking appears unaffected.

Parking will be blocked until early 2019

5. PALM TREES, aka ‘Hammock Hipsters Hang Out”
They will be removed soon with no mention of  replacement;

– In front of Cardiff Elementary: There will be a crosswalk that connects the school with the CRT, and in this area the trail is near San Elijo Avenue but it’s unclear how that will affect school event parking;
– Between Mozart Ave. and Chesterfield Ave: The trail dips down into the little gulch and re-emerges where the current pedestrian bridge is near Liverpool, then continues to Chesterfield.

What’s most important now

Because the NCTD post & cable fence will be constructed as part of this project and will cut off all beach access for the community, the most critical issue going forward is timely construction of the promised, but unfunded, RR undercrossing at Verdi. Realistically, expect to lose beach access for three or more years (See Verdi article in this issue of The Cardiff Current).

Most Recent SANDAG update, including project map