Verdi Undercrossing – Years Away

For Cardiff residents living north of Birmingham, the ability to walk to the beach is coming to an end (see CRT article here).  The City of Encinitas is working on a crossing near Verdi Ave. to reconnect residents and future trail users with Hwy 101 and the beach.  But the crossing is three or more years from completion and comes with a hefty $8.8 million price tag. The City hopes to pay for most of the project with federal and state grants.

Last week the design team of HDR Engineering, Hoch Consulting, and MW Peltz Landscape Architecture, held an Open House at Cardiff Elementary. Nearly 50 residents attended to see the conceptual drawings of the undercrossing.

Christy Villa, an engineer with Hoch Consulting said the earliest it could be completed is 2021, but that is if grant money and permits are applied for and awarded quickly, “we have not initiated the permit or approval process yet.”

The crossing site is actually south of Verdi and north of Liszt Ave., and will have two concrete paths coming from both of these streets. These two paths will intersect with the Coastal Rail Trail (see HERE) and then continue westward, meeting at the RR bridge. After you cross beneath the tracks, the trail will cross the highway via a traffic controlled crosswalk which puts you near the ramp at the top of Pipe’s Beach.

Click for full size drawing

The current design includes:
• A bridge to support the RR tracks similar to the Swami’s undercrossing;
• A view-area with benches to be incorporated into the established rail trail;
• 15 low masonry walls to contain the slight slope from San Elijo to the tracks. The design team said many of the walls can be eliminated to cut costs, but they have already removed a number of larger structural walls from a previous plan, saving money;
• Painted rocks to be put into the concrete path;
• Swirled designs embedded into the path that resemble sand art;

The attendees seemed mostly concerned about the time it will take to regain beach access. Scott Millard has been walking through the rail corridor for years to go surfing and walk his dog Nala each day. He said he is “happy enough with the design, it’s just the timeline I’m worried about – which seems to directly relate to the cost.”

Nancy B., who has been walking down to the beach since the 1980’s by crossing the tracks was worried about the complexity of the plans, “Less is more! Simplify the plans and get the project done quickly so we can get to the beach, and a viewing area isn’t necessary.”

Longtime resident Bob Bonde who lives near Verdi Ave. couldn’t attend but had this to say, “They should extend the crossing into a tunnel that continues beneath Highway 101 all the way to the bluff for safer beach access. Have you noticed how the traffic is backing up because of the Santa Fe pedestrian crossing?”

And, finally, Michael Burns has been surfing local breaks for decades. He likes the idea of matching the structure of the RR bridge to the Swamis crossing as the designers proposed, but he did not care for the added view area. “We have already lost natural landscape to concrete and we don’t need to see more. Keep it clean and simple. Surfers will take the shortest path to the beach. Watch Swamis on a good day – 90% of those parked on San Elijo jump the tracks still!  They do not backtrack through the underpass maze.”