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Sunday, Jul 14, 2024
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Commentary — Transit Solutions Are Needed for the Region Now

The transit needs of our region are enormous. We will never move forward with backward thinking about relocating rail corridors that have served the region since the 1880s. There’s a reason the railroad tracks were put along the coast; the grade changes are gradual as opposed to inland areas away from the coastline.

The recent suggestion to put the trains on the Interstate 5 corridor elevated above the cars, trucks and buses already there is pure folly. The county supervisor’s suggestion as an “out of the box” possibility needs a heavy dose of logic from structural engineering and train technology. It’s really a divisive ‘delay and confuse’ tactic for the public.

Take a quick look at our highways and imagine a train system of passenger cars and freight above the roadway. No matter that the freeway goes under some arterial streets and over others, that center support structures already are there for most overhead bridges, that rail trains can derail, and how anyone gets on and off such an elevated system let alone find a parking place to leave the car, etc. These are a few initial details left “up in the air.”

Infrastructure support for the weight of sets of trains, especially freight, far exceeds that of the automobile, truck, etc., loading and in earthquake country high structures are difficult. Those who would like to move the current rail corridor to the freeway are obstructionists who want to kill the transit uses in our region. They would have you believe it is possible to fit everything (cars, buses, trucks, trains) in this freeway corridor and above, just get it out of their back yard where it has been for more than 100 years.

The reality is that anything is probably possible; however, the cost of our tax dollars to move a railroad system and elevate it would be in the billions of dollars. The time needed to look at and explore complex designs, review environmental concerns, air, visual and noise pollution at elevated levels, passenger access for handicapped, parking for commuters and freeway closure during construction time, all would never happen in our lifetimes and that’s exactly what some people want , nothing. Making the freeway the dumping ground for all transportation is wrong. We need to spread out our transportation networks, not condense them.

Some of these same people looking at the freeway for all transportation solutions are the ones who do not want to look at any new roadways anywhere in North County. Why? They would rather waste tax dollars to protect their property interests near the existing rail corridor and other places of “not in my back yard activists” who would like it all to go away anywhere else.

We need positive solutions, not expensive diversions, to take us forward in our lifetime. We need to improve our existing rail corridor to increase efficiency, timing and public safety now as we enhance the corridor with the adjoining “rail trail” along the coast with walking paths, bicycle bridges over the tracks and other pedestrian uses. We also need to plan for a high-speed rail corridor inland near Interstate 15 or further east where they do not have rail lines for passengers or freight. We need transportation networks, not overloaded single corridors , we already have them , they’re called I-5 and I-15.

We need better transit now in our near future, not some “pie-in-the-sky” scheme.

Dodson is a Solana Beach city councilwoman.

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