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The Alphabet Series: T is for Tracks

Observations from the Edge
Robert T. Nanninga
Coast News
August 9, 2000


"Rowe's Rule: the odds are five to six that the light at the end of the tunnel is the headlight of an oncoming train." — Paul Dickson

Last week I subjected myself to another "workshop" pertaining to North County Transit District's desire to expand the rail corridor through coastal North County. Familiar with the process, it was not a surprise to learn the meeting was just another opportunity for NCTD to tell Encinitas that double tracking was inevitable and that there is little the city can do to stop it. Yes, my fellow Encinitans, double tracking is in our future because NCTD will not have it any other way.

The challenge facing residents is how to best look after the interests of Encinitas now that our community has been targeted by Amtrak, the High Speed Rail Authority, and Burlington Northern for increased usage. If North County Transit District gets it's way, coastal Encinitas will be further bisected with at grade passing tracks. With downtown Encinitas eventually becoming a defacto switching yard. A fact routinely ignored by the rail barons at NCTD, is this proposal is unacceptable to the majority of Encinitas residents.

Also being ignored are the environmental implications of an exponential increase in rail traffic. Forget about the minor quality of life issues such as noise pollution and visual blight, double tracking the LOSSAN rail corridor is far from ecologically benign. Yet NCTD systematically refuses to address environmental concerns,and for all purposes refuses to conduct a complete Environmental Impact Analysis, regarding their expansion plans. The list of those calling for environmental studies continues to grow with each refusal of NCTD to do so.

At this meeting Martin Minkoff, Executive Director of the North County Transit District stated that NCTD would conduct environmental studies deemed appropriate by the agency. The problem to date has always been the fact that NCTD favors a piece meal planning approach,  which allows for systematic disconnect regarding the long term impacts to quality of life issues facing Encinitas and other coastal cities.

In my opinion, one shared by many forward thinking individuals, if double tracking is inevitable, realigning it to the Interstate 5 would be in the best interests of all involved including future generations. By consolidating transportation on to one footprint will make it easier to plan for, and coordinate emerging transportations technologies. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to understand that our current reliance on antiquated fossil fuel transportation models is currently playing itself out.

Double tracking is not in the best interest of cities such as Del Mar and Encinitas, as profit from expanded access to the rail corridor will not be shared by the cities having to make the biggest sacrifices. Money generated by Amtrak and Burlington Northern will not stay in Encinitas. Contrary to the official party line at NCTD, increased freight traffic will not benefit commuter rail service in anyway as increased pressure on a much constrained rail corridor will only add to the chaos.

In reality, the only thing needed by the residents of coastal North County is a comprehensive light rail system. A service, such as San Diego's Trolley service would help ease rush hour commutes, while encouraging residents to leave their automobiles at home. Currently the NCTD board fails to encourage public transit by limiting Coaster service to a schedule out of touch with the needs of residents. This undermines there charter, and forces residents to join their neighbors in the daily gridlock known as Interstate 5.

There has to be a better way, and it looks like it is up to the residents of Encinitas to find it.

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