SANDAG gets money to finish design for fairgrounds train stop

The Coaster heads south next to the fairgrounds in Del Mar last year.
(John Gibbins/John Gibbins/San Diego Union-Tri)

New railroad bridge and 1.7 miles of second track also planned


Funding for the final design for a Del Mar Fairgrounds seasonal train stop, the San Dieguito trestle replacement and 1.7 miles of a second set of tracks through Solana Beach are included in $589 million allocated statewide last week by the California Transportation Board.

“This investment follows our ‘fix-it-first’ commitment to repair California’s aging infrastructure, while at the same time increasing transit and active transportation options,” Caltrans Director Toks Omishakin said in a written announcement. “These projects will make our transportation system safer and more convenient for all users and create thousands of good paying jobs in the process.”

The 100-year-old wooden trestle will be replaced by a wider, higher, concrete bridge that will be less likely to flood and less of an impediment to the flow of the San Dieguito River. The $200,000 directed to SANDAG for local rail projects also includes plans to continue the double-tracking of the railroad, which improves the speed and efficiency of service.

About two-thirds of the coastal rail corridor in San Diego County has been double-tracked so far.

The seasonal train platform at Del Mar has been sought for more than 25 years by the 22nd District Agricultural Association Board of Directors, which runs the fairgrounds. A train stop would allow more people to ride public transit to the annual county fair, the horse races and other events at the fairgrounds, where parking for any large event can be a problem.

“Patrons would welcome using transit as an alternative,” fair board Director Fred Schenk said in a 2014 letter to SANDAG. “We applaud SANDAG and (North County Transit District’s) efforts to construct a special events platform at the fairgrounds, which will provide a safe and reliable transit option, while reducing traffic congestion, vehicular greenhouse gas emissions, and help to meet regional goals of enhancing transit service for the county.”

More than 1.5 million people attended the fair in 2019, the last year before the pandemic restricted attendance.

The tracks run along the western edge of the fairgrounds. In the 1940s special passenger trains from as far as Los Angeles stopped at the fairgrounds for horse races and the county fair, but these days the closest rail platform is at Solana Beach.

The money announced last week is expected to pay for the remaining work needed to complete the design of 1.7 miles of second track, the new bridge and the Del Mar platform. So for no money has been allocated for construction, which is expected to cost $142 million. Construction is scheduled to be completed by 2030.

Three other San Diego County projects were included in the money the state Transportation Commission allocated this week.

Caltrans and SANDAG will get $24.9 million to construct Segment 3A of the Otay Mesa Port of Entry on state Route 11; Caltrans will get $23.8 million to rehabilitate Interstate 8 bridge decks in El Cajon and La Mesa; and the city of La Mesa and SANDAGE will get $180,000 for the La Mesa Bike and Sidewalk Connections Project.