ENCINITAS–Construction for the long-anticipated $12.1 million El Portal Undercrossing project began December 3, marking a pivotal milestone to improve public safety and enhance access to biking and walking paths in Old Encinitas.
The project will build a new rail bridge, plus new pathways and retaining walls, allowing streamlined access to businesses, schools, the coastline, and the neighborhoods between Vulcan Avenue and North Coast Highway 101.
“Providing safe and legal ways for the community to cross the railroad tracks is a top priority for the City of Encinitas,” said SANDAG Vice Chair and Mayor of Encinitas Catherine Blakespear. “This project will provide a direct route for residents west of the railroad to a local elementary school and popular farmer’s market. It also connects residents east of the tracks with the beach, the businesses along Highway 101, and public transportation. I’m really excited to be breaking ground on another great biking and walking project, which could serve as a regional model for mobility improvements.”
The El Portal Undercrossing is one of several railroad undercrossing locations planned in the City of Encinitas. It has been designed in conjunction with the adjacent Leucadia Streetscape project which will construct roadway, pedestrian and bicycle improvements to North Coast Highway 101 just west of the El Portal Undercrossing. The City of Encinitas’ first railway undercrossing at Santa Fe Drive lies approximately 1.5 miles south of El Portal and opened in 2013. The El Portal Undercrossing and Leucadia Streetscape projects have been designed to seamlessly integrate with future projects, including Los Angeles – San Diego – San Luis Obispo Railroad Doubletracking and Coastal Rail Trail projects.
“Construction activity will be significant, but it is necessary to bring the community’s vision for this area to life,” says Kellie Shay Hinze, Encinitas Deputy Mayor. “The El Portal Undercrossing will provide tremendous value to the community once completed. The end goal is to improve connectivity and mobility for all and enhance the quality of life for our city.”
Construction work includes a new undercrossing to provide pedestrians and cyclists a safe way to cross the railroad tracks. Other improvements include the construction of ADA-compliant sidewalks, and improvements to control erosion and flooding during the rainy season. Enhancements to native landscaping will feature community-inspired art and design features to encapsulate the history of Encinitas.
“This crossing will be transformational for our community, providing another safe and legal way for people to cross the railroad corridor, making it easier to reach the beach or businesses along Highway 101 on foot or by bike, or to school or the farmers market if they live on the west side of the tracks,” said Tony Kranz, NCTD Board Chair and Encinitas Councilmember. “The collective hard work and dedication of city staff, SANDAG, NCTD, and all the stakeholders involved has made this project possible, and I know the residents in Leucadia will appreciate the convenience of this added benefit to our city.”
SANDAG and the City of Encinitas are committed to working with nearby businesses, residents, and visitors to minimize construction and travel impacts, while consistently keeping the community informed throughout the course of the project. Normal construction hours will take place Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. All site work will be conducted in adherence to environmental protocols and COVID-19 safety guidelines.
The El Portal Undercrossing Project is expected to be complete in spring 2022 and was funded by the City of Encinitas and the State of California’s Active Transportation Program.