Solana Beach City Council seeks to redirect parking lot funds to build railroad pedestrian underpass


As part of a plan to widen Interstate 5 in North County, Caltrans has proposed a number of improvement projects for neighboring communities.

With a proposed parking lot no longer needed at the northern terminus of Solana Hills Drive, the Solana Beach City Council on Nov. 19 unanimously recommended Caltrans reallocate the funds for the construction of a railroad pedestrian underpass at the San Elijo Lagoon Trailhead near the city’s northern border.

The $500,000 lot was intended for people using a pedestrian/bicycle path that will be connected to a reconstructed bridge spanning the lagoon.

“It’s beyond an attractive nuisance, it’s an unbelievable hazard,” said Solana Beach resident Jim Nelson, referring to the railroad tracks. He was one of four speakers who encouraged council members to support the project. “I really applaud your efforts to get a railroad undercrossing.”

“This is the perfect use for the funds, and clearly, nobody wants the parking lot,” added resident Gerri Retman-Opper. “It will be a win-win-win for everyone.”

The I-5 widening project is part of the North Coast Corridor Program, a 40-year plan to handle the growing transportation needs along the North County coastline. Developed by Caltrans and the San Diego Association of Governments, the plan outlines a series of highway, highway, rail and transit, and coastal access improvements, spanning 27 miles from La Jolla to Oceanside.

The program also includes the San Dieguito Double Track and Special Events Platform project: a one-mile stretch of second main track between Del Mar and Solana Beach, the replacement of a nearly 100-year-old wooden trestle rail bridge over the San Dieguito River, and the addition of a special events rail platform on the west side of the fairgrounds.

With double-tracking planned, City Manager David Ott agreed a railroad pedestrian underpass would increase safety and enhance walkability.

“It’s well-used, that area,” Ott said. “People go across the tracks, and we know of at least a couple that were injured crossing those tracks. Because it’s going to be double-tracked, it’s going to be much wider and more dangerous.”

With the council’s unanimous support, Ott will submit a letter to Caltrans to redesignate the funds. San Elijo Lagoon Conservancy, headed by Executive Director Doug Gibson, has offered to maintain the pedestrian underpass.