Open house spotlights Double Track and Special Events Platform for Del Mar

Community members gathered at an open house Nov. 18 at Santa Fe Christian School in Solana Beach to comment on and learn more about the environmental assessment for the San Dieguito Double Track and Special Events Platform project.

The open house for the project, to be built at the Del Mar Fairgrounds, was hosted by the San Diego Association of Governments and the North County Transit District.

“These are very useful for us to make sure we hear from the surrounding communities,” said Project Manager Linda Culp at the event, which was the second informational open house. The first was held in October 2013. “It gives the project a check and makes sure we’re on the right track.”

The $142 million project will add a one-mile stretch of second main track between Del Mar and Solana Beach, replace a nearly 100-year-old wooden trestle rail bridge over the San Dieguito River, and add a special events rail platform on the west side of the fairgrounds.

The project is part of the North Coast Corridor Program, a comprehensive package of highway, rail and transit, and coastal access improvements, which spans 27 miles from Oceanside to La Jolla. Although it is not yet fully funded for construction, it is expected to be completed by 2030.

“We’re looking at taking cars off the road, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and helping the environment,” Culp said. “We definitely see this project as one of the key projects to let us do that. Having a platform at the fairgrounds, we think, will relieve traffic not only on the Interstate, but on the local streets.”

The proposed platform prompted the most commentary from attendees at the first open house, which turned into a question-and-answer session at the Powerhouse Community Center in Del Mar. Residents raised concerns about potential impacts of lights, traffic, security and noise, especially from train horns and announcements.

Although the latest open house was much more composed, with attendees quietly visiting topic stations to talk with SANDAG representatives, engineers and consultants around the campus chapel, Del Mar officials made it clear that the city still has some concerns.

“We were looking forward to seeing the update, what SANDAG’s come up with, after the environmental assessment was made,” said Councilwoman Sherryl Parks at the open house. “We, in Del Mar, have put together some specific requests and concerns, and we’re still looking for answers.”

While Del Mar supports the concept, officials and residents contend the 1,000-foot-long platform and 8-foot-high bridge should be reduced, and other problems, including increased light, noise and trash, must be addressed.

Parks and Mayor Lee Haydu serve as council liaisons on the San Dieguito Double-Track Ad Hoc Committee, which was formed to gain a complete understanding of the project, identify problems, and identify and prioritize mitigation measures.

With the committee’s help, the council outlined the city’s concerns in a letter to SANDAG last fall, and again in the spring, when SANDAG only acknowledged receipt and provided the city with an updated version of frequently asked questions regarding the project, according to a June 2 letter to Del Mar.

Although SANDAG responded to the city’s second letter, some do not believe that it, or the environmental assessment, addresses all of Del Mar’s concerns.

“Staff has been reviewing the environmental assessment,” said Haydu at the Nov. 17 council meeting. “There is concern that SANDAG has not identified any impacts or defined mitigation that addresses the previously stated concerns of Del Mar.”

“It seems like a done deal, even though the impacts on Del Mar will be real,” Parks added at the open house.

The environmental assessment was prepared to analyze the surrounding environment, potential impacts, project alternatives, and applicable mitigation measures. Public comments on the report must be to SANDAG by Dec. 1.

For information about the project or to review the environmental assessment, visit keepsandiegomoving.com.

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