By Helen and Richard Nielsen-Eckfield
Bing Crosby had it right when in the second year of racing at Del Mar he established direct train service, bringing up to three train loads per day of fans from L.A. directly to the races. That service ran from 1938 until the mid-1960s, when "freeways" were thought to be the answer.
The city of Vista had it right Dec. 8, 2009, when it passed a report and resolution stating support for a new rail platform at the fairgrounds "as a top priority and as a required mitigation against the increased traffic and carbon footprint which the proposed additional developments will create."
And Carlsbad's City Council was right when the previous week, it noted the traffic the proposed expansion plans would create called for construction of a permanent rail platform and resolved "that all potential funding sources to both study and ultimately construct a permanent seasonal rail platform should be explored."
The San Dieguito River Park Authority, which usually does not comment on traffic issues, has it right when it noted in its 24-page comment letter about the proposed fairground development that "existing project site operations are already causing a significant unmitigated impact on the area. ...
"The only proposed public transit component is a possible train platform that is only addressed as a long-term project with no strategy presented on how that project will be implemented. The seasonal train platform must be given a higher priority and should be part of a reasonable mitigation package."
And SANDAG, which is our council of governments, has it right when it recommends that to mitigate the transportation impacts of the proposed new activities that a train platform be constructed in the first phase, and go on to say: "Potential funding alternatives for transpiration mitigation should be explored. An example would be to seek participation in financing the permanent rail platform project's cost from those competing for the 20-year contract to run the races at Del Mar."
In September, 105 thoroughbred owners, trainers, fans and civic leaders sent a petition to the governor urging that the State Race Track Leasing Commission (RTLC), which is responsible for awarding the very lucrative contract for up to the next 20 years of racing at Del Mar, do just that. And it did, (on Jan. 27) when it modified the RFP for racing services — proposals due in August — asking for increased payments from the concessionaire, who has earned just under a million per day these past years, and seeking involvement in funding the train stop platform and access ramp portion of this project.
And thanks to state Sen. Christine Kehoe for pointing out to the RTLC that "adding language to the RFP about the successful bidder being included in discussion on funding options for the permanent seasonal rail platform would ensure that those responding to the RFP are aware that this transit project is a regional priority."
Everyone has it right. Now we just need to do it.