Letter: A plan that went off the rails

The Coastal Rail Trail project is not new; it was originally envisioned in the late 1980s. Several prior councils recognized the negative impacts this project would have on our coastal community and, as a result, did not support it.

While some have focused on the limited benefits of this project, such as encouraging people out of their cars and onto bikes, they have failed to recognize the negative impacts associated with the project for the Cardiff community.

A primary reason citizens oppose this project is the change it would bring to this iconic area. The Cardiff rail corridor is one of the last undeveloped pieces of coastal habitat in the area. It is an open space with a natural path and sandstone formations that is used regularly by joggers, dog walkers, beachgoers and those who stop to watch the sun set over Swami’s. The proposed project will pave over the natural path and line it with a 4-foot fence. It will also drastically reduce parking for the beach and surrounding neighborhood. These changes dramatically alter the character and charm of this beach town community in an area where people frequently visit or have invested millions of dollars in property, presuming it would remain relatively untouched by development.

Further compounding the matter, the limited beach access created by the rail trail fence caused a Council majority of Tony Kranz, Catherine Blakespear and Lisa Shaffer to hastily approve an at-grade rail crossing at Montgomery Avenue. While we fully support a crossing project in this area, it is important to note that the Cardiff community will now receive a lesser crossing project than originally scoped for the area because the city does not currently have the resources to move forward with the original/ideal project concurrent with rail trail installation. The Montgomery crossing has long been planned as an undercrossing project similar to the new Santa Fe Avenue undercrossing. An undercrossing should be preferred by Cardiff residents, as it is safer for all concerned, including the nearby schoolchildren, and does not intensify noise in the rail corridor.

Our city budget is now facing new impacts from the Council majority’s approval of a $600,000 study to plan for an at-grade crossing at Montgomery. While the new crossing might cost us a few million dollars, silencing the noise pollution resulting from additional train horns sounding at the at-grade crossing could cost up to $1 million more. This money was not accounted for in the city’s competitive budget process for the Capital Improvement Plan spanning the next five years, where about $250 million of projects sit unfunded. This project not only significantly changes that character but also prioritizes a dubious asset above all other budgetary considerations.

Mayor Kristin Gaspar and Councilman Mark Muir

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