Del Mar endorses three options for pedestrian access along rail

A Surfliner train by Amtrak travels along the collapsing bluffs in Del Mar in 2019.
A Surfliner train by Amtrak travels along the collapsing bluffs in Del Mar in 2019.
(John Gibbins/The San Diego Union-Tribune


Del Mar City Council members voted 4-1 to endorse three options to improve pedestrian access along a 1.6-mile stretch of the train tracks from Coast Boulevard to Torrey Pines State Beach.

The city is adding the access points as a condition imposed by the California Coastal Commission for 2019 approval of bluff stabilization work. The final decision on which options to include will be made by the city of Del Mar, North County Transit District and the San Diego Association of Governments.

“Currently, many pedestrians enter railroad property in the study area, both to cross the railroad and to walk along the bluffs,” the Coastal Connections Conceptual Planning Study reads. “This creates safety concerns for pedestrians and risks impacting passenger and freight rail services.”

Council members decided to move forward with a north-south trail (with the caveat that it doesn’t come with the type of fence along the north bluff that the city has been fighting against), an underpass at Seventh and Eighth streets with either ramps or stairs to the beach, and an overpass at 10th Street.

The underpass options would have the biggest impact on the bluff and are more expensive than the at-grade options.

Del Mar resident Camilla Rang said she supported the trail, along with many other residents who gave their comments during the public outreach period.

“I don’t really like the underpass because you have to dig into the bluff, but it may be that that’s the only option,” said Rang, who has also been outspoken against NCTD’s push for a fence.

Del Mar City Council member Dwight Worden was the lone vote against the motion. He said he supported the north-south trail and the underpass with the stairs and ramp options, but could not support the motion without an at-grade option.

There were four options for at-grade crossings, two versions at 11th Street and two versions at Seventh and Eighth streets with different combinations of stairs or ramps to the beach. One of the concerns about an at-grade crossing is the noise of an alarm that sounds when a train passes. It would also require approval from the California Public Utilities Commission, which typically tries to limit new at-grade crossings along railroads.

“It’s not a dead horse,” Worden said. “Let’s not abandon it, because if that’s what our community really would want and it’s cheaper and it’s easier and it’s better, let’s keep it on the table.”

The next steps include two to three years for construction and identifying funding sources. Total project cost estimates for the undercrossing options are approximately $7 million with stairs and $12.8 million with a ramp, according to the study. The trail would be approximately $9 million.

Long term, the city will continue working with SANDAG to move the rail off the eroding north bluff and into an inland tunnel. The two options under consideration are a west alignment that follows Camino Del Mar and an east alignment through Crest Canyon.