Carlsbad Considers Ambitious Project To Put Trains In A Trench

Monday, March 13, 2017
By Alison St John
Photo by Joe Wolf / Flickr
Above: A train station at Poinsettia Lane in Carlsbad, November 4, 2010.

Carlsbad‘s downtown along the North Coast Highway is facing a noisy future as the number of trains expected to travel along the coastline is projected to double by 2030.

Currently, about 50 trains a day pass through: 44 passenger and 6 freight trains. Cars have to stop at the crossings when the trains pass through, and residents complain about the horns. The city is considering its options.

Mark Packard, a Carlsbad city councilman, said studies show it would be safer and less disruptive if the city put the train line in a deep trench. He said the time to act is soon because the North Coast Corridor Project has already double-tracked the single-track train line up the coast as far as southern Carlsbad.

“When we saw (the second track) coming, we realized that this is our one chance, as the double tracking is being done, to put it down below grade where it ought to be, or leave it at street level and suffer the impacts,” he said.

Solana Beach is the only coastal city in North County where the train line is already in a deep trench, making it less intrusive for nearby residents and shoppers along the tracks. That work was done in the mid-1990s when Solana Beach Station replaced the historic train station in Del Mar.

Geotechnical studies show trenching through Carlsbad would put the rail line below the water table. The estimated cost to build the tracks more than 20 feet deep is between $235 million and $350 million, depending on the length of the section.

When the San Diego Association of Governments, or SANDAG, evaluated various proposed rail-trenching projects in 2015 and ranked them in order of priority, the one through Carlsbad came in 24th

Packard said he is confident money could be found to pay the city’s share of the cost — if the council decides it is a priority.

The city will hold a public meeting Saturday, March 18, to get more input on the findings of the report. The city council will discuss whether to make it a priority goal the following week.