Monday, September 11, 2006

Some Thoughts about the Leucadia Blvd Interesection

The recent train collision that left some poor sap in a coma has spurred a lot of "if you don't want to get hit by the train stay the hell off the tracks" type comments from the know-it-alls.

They, of course, are right. If you don't want to get hit by the train stay the hell off the tracks.

But some things to consider:

I find it very interesting that the same people who say that the Leucadia Blvd/Hwy101/train tracks/Vulcan Ave intersection is perfectly safe and functional are the same people who say that Leucadia is blighted and needs to be redeveloped. This makes no sense at all.

The intersection is not safe and functional. Anyone who uses the intersection daily can vouch for this. Ever since they connected Leucadia Blvd to El Camino Real the intersection is getting heavier use. The westbound traffic often backs up all the way to the Hygeia stop sign.

The 7-11 parking lot creates chaos as people try to turn left onto Leucadia Blvd, a manuaver that really jacks the traffic. Cars trying to merge into southbound Vulcan Ave mucks things up good in the morning rush hour. Many of the vehicles are big work trucks mixing with moms trying to take their kids to Central/Paul Ecke school.

Going westbound on Leucadia Blvd when the Vulcan light turns green cars eagerly push forward over the tracks, but the Hwy101 light doesn't green right away, there is a delay. Add pedestrians to the mix and the flow of traffic stops. It is very common for drivers not to notice this and stop on the tracks. Yes, you should never stop on the tracks, but drivers who are unfamiliar with the intersection find themselves stuck there all the time. Luckily the light turns green and the traffic moves so that collisions are rare.

Hwy101 bicyclist always run the light, especially the big groups of yuppie lycra tour de France wannabees. They think they don't have to stop for some reason. This really causes gridlock and frustrates drivers still on the Vulcan side who can't see what the holdup is. This is a major problem at this intersection.

The trains run frequently causing major delays at this intersection. I have sat there in gridlock waiting to go watching as many as three trains go by before the green light cycles back around to me. Luckily I'm pretty calm and zen about it but I've seen people get road rage because of the long wait and stomp on the gas pedal screaming when it's finally time to go.

Downtown Encinitas is extremely lucky that Encinitas Blvd goes under a train trestle where it connects to the coast highway. Can you imagine it any other way? It would be a giant nightmare. I think most of the powers that be use this smooth flowing intersection so they don't really relate to the drama going down at Leucadia and Hwy101.

I was in the Patagonia store over the weekend and started talking about the Chesterfield crossing with the employees and a few locals browsing. They say that intersection is getting bad too. Not at the level of Leucadia Blvd but it has bad gridlock in the mornings and on busy weekends.

When they lowered the tracks in Solana Beach the construction delays were very frustrating, but wasn't it worth it? It is so great not to have to wait for trains there. That intersection functions smoothly. Just make sure the cars ahead of you don't leave you stuck in the middle of the intersection for the red light cameras and their quick yellow lights.

At the west end of Leucadia Blvd is the increasingly popular Beacon's beach. Thanks to a surf school Beacon's is gaining more and more regular surfers every summer. Many of these "surfers" are coming from the new mega developments in San Elijo Hills and New Encinitas. It was silly to widen Leucadia Blvd (taking several long established homes via eminent domain) and connecting it to El Camino Real and beyond without addressing the needs of the coastal intersection. It's beyond silly really, it was shortsighted, selfish and stupid.

The city of Encinitas spent a lot of money improving Santa Fe Rd, a road that doesn't connect to the coast highway. This is just silly when you have one of the most frustrating and dangerous intersections in north county that desperately needs attention.

It's bizarre that the same people are say that Leucadia is blighted because it has dirt and weeds are the same people who say that the intersection is safe and functional. Bizarre and scary and a little sad.

The tracks need to be lowered under Leucadia Blvd like they are in Solana Beach. We should force to the NCTD to do this on their dime.

As is, cars will continue to get stuck on the tracks, people will continue to get hurt or killed, trains will continue to be delayed after collisions, and the traffic gridlock will get worse as the population grows but I guess it's all good right?


  1. Perfectly stated! Why isn't this interestion a higher priority for council? Should they address a well known hazard before building Ritz Fire Sleeping Quarters and a regional park in Cardiff

  2. JP it is interesting that when Cardiff was screaming about double tracking that you and the other people on this blog were silent. We were promised by bossypants and stocks that they would try and underground the tracks or fight NCTD in court. They peed down their legs when push came to shove.

    Now you leucadians are crying that you have a poor intersection. I have lived here for over 45 years and I can tell you that that intersection hasn't changed one bit. You guys are grying poor me not poor us.

    I for one wouldn't support your efforts because you were disinterested when Cardiff got double tracks. What I want to hear is, underground the railroad all the way through the city of encinitas.

  3. This blog did not exist during the Cardiff double tracking controversy.

    I have always supported LOWERING the tracks through our entire community. Gary Taylor and I used to talk for hours about this ever since the invention of the Coaster Cops.

  4. This is what happens when city officals are allowed to accept reports that are inadequate. When the Ecke Ranch went in and Leucadia Blvd. plowed through giving Ecke's shopping center access they way under projected how much traffic was coming our way. This should have been dealt with then. We should not continue to make the same mistakes.

    And, double tracking impacts the whole corridor not just Cardiff. The worst impact is Leucadia Blvd, hands down. The council loves this because they can use that as another excuse to give their developer friends a redevelopment agency in Leucadia AND that will open the door for a RdA in Cardiff.

    They make the blight and then use it as an excuse, just like the flooding.

  5. It is unclear if forming an RDA will impact the tracks because they are controlled by NCTD.

  6. No, but NCTD isn't going to pay for dealing with the intersection as long as Stocks is the big cheese over there. The City of Encinitas will have to pay. If that is wrong then it has nothing to do with redevelopment.

    Question. Did Solana Beach pay for their grade seperation?

  7. Have people forgotten that the council "loaned" Sandag 1.75 million dollars to conduct the workshops on the pedestrian and Leucadia crossings? Was that money repaid by the state to the Encinitas general fund?

  8. Yes, people forgot.

    Did the City forget?

  9. former urban plannerSeptember 11, 2006 4:13 PM

    JP you should lobby to have the intersection closed altogether. This would greatly cut down on the new "surfers" at Beacons, and generally keep people out of Leucadia. It is easier to remain Funky when you're less accessible. People would be forced to use Encinitas Blvd and La Costa, both of which have no train issues. You could even go so far as to have 101 narrowed to one lane each way, with wide sidewalks and outdoor cafes. The street could even have gentle curves, giving it a country lane feel. It could be the next Carmel! It would also get rid of the Oceanside and Carlsbad commuters but a sharp increase on the weekends of Hell's Angels wannabes on Harleys and Tour de France spandex cyclists.

  10. I like the former urban planners ideas. Sounds perfect. Except the Hell Angels, but if they have mufflers, thats cool- they're welcome. And as long as the spandex clan wears jock straps so they do show their twinky to the world- Its all good. At least there burning calaries and they're quiet.

    Too Bad Former Urban Planner didn't run for council along with Teresa.

  11. How about we just saw off Queleudia and push it into the ocean. Then you all can complain about each other instead of everyone else but you.

  12. The island concept is appealing but not practical. Check out the lastest from Jerome-

    Driver in Leucadia train crash remains in critical condition

    By: ADAM KAYE - Staff Writer

    ENCINITAS -- The Carlsbad man whose Ford Ranger was struck by a train Friday remains in critical condition at Scripps Memorial Hospital La Jolla, authorities said Monday.

    Rufino Espinoza, 61, a self-employed building maintenance worker, may have been suffering from a medical condition when his vehicle was ripped in two on Leucadia Boulevard by southbound Amtrak 774, sheriff's Deputy Mark Cook said.

    The collision hurled debris across nearby North Coast Highway 101, damaging two vehicles but causing no other injuries, Cook said. No one on the train was hurt.

    An Encinitas official said Monday that the city was preparing to apply to the state Public Utilities Commission to improve the Leucadia Boulevard crossing, where trains hit vehicles in 2001 and again in 2003. Neither of those crashes involved fatalities.

    Espinoza's family could not be reached on Monday.

    Espinoza does not face charges and Cook said he does not believe alcohol was a factor in Friday's wreck.

    Espinoza's family has told authorities that he is a devout Mormon who suffers from diabetes, Cook said.

    "I'm still looking at his medical history to see if that was a contributing factor," the deputy said.

    The train engineer reported seeing Espinoza's westbound vehicle roll beneath the railroad crossing gate. The train was traveling at 70 mph when it struck the car, authorities said.

    Flying debris damaged an eastbound Infiniti stopped at the gate. An axle struck a northbound Porsche on the highway.

    Friday's crash came at a time when city officials were exploring ways to make the crossing safer. The crossing is notorious for traffic congestion and for being hazardous to vehicles.

    Leucadia Boulevard crosses the highway, railroad and Vulcan Avenue, with short spans between all three and a steep climb between the highway and the tracks.

    In 2001, a passenger train slammed into a semi-tractor that, because of the steep incline, was hung up on the tracks. The truck driver got out of his cab just before the train struck. Seven of 110 passengers on the train were injured, none seriously.

    In 2003, a Carlsbad woman escaped injury when an Amtrak train smashed into her car as it was stuck in traffic on the railroad tracks. The train's 60 passengers were unhurt.

    More recently, Encinitas has hired consultants to evaluate bridges and underpasses at the crossing. An engineering firm in March presented prices for such solutions ranging from $88 million to $160 million.

    A cheaper fix, Councilman Jerome Stocks said Monday, would be to build new crossings at railroad level ---- or "at-grade" ---- like the existing one.

    The city would need to sell that concept to the state Public Utilities Commission, which regulates rail construction and favors "grade-separated crossings," where bridges or underpasses keep vehicles and trains separate.

    "The general position of the Public Utilities Commission is that at-grade crossings on high-speed passenger rail lines, like Amtrak lines, are dangerous and should be converted to grade-separated crossings as soon as feasible," a spokeswoman from the agency said Monday in a written statement.

    The city is designing a new crossing in Leucadia that would involve two "one-way couplets" ---- one eastbound and one westbound ---- where vehicles would cross the tracks one block to the north and one block to the south of Leucadia Boulevard.

    Richard Phillips, the city staffer overseeing the railroad crossing project and the application to the Public Utilities Commission, was on vacation and unavailable Monday.

    When the time comes to lobby the Public Utilities Commission to accept an Encinitas' crossing proposal, Stocks said he would point out the solution would be temporary until money was found for a permanent fix.

    He said he would note the crossing would not be new but a replacement of an existing one that has safety problems.

    "It would be my hope that the regulators would be able to look at the situation, the history of the intersection and be able to see that modifying it would improve rather than decrease the safety to the public," he said.

  13. Rick- this intersection isn't a high priority for the council because train/car intersections don't vote!! It doesn't fit on a campaign sign as well as "Firefighters support JOE PUTZ!!!! That's why there is no support to fix that intersection!! Infastructure doesn't garner votes!!! Also how many council members use that intersection daily?? 1 maybe, but more likely none!!

    The tracks should be buried through the city, they should have been buried when Solona Beach buried theirs, but the Enc.council at the time had no vision and todays council is no better.

    Nothing less than a blockade of the tracks will bring NCTD to the bargaining table. Railroads in the USA are Omnipotent!!! They do as they please under laws set-up by Congress in the 1800's.

    Leucadia blvd should have been brought down to Vulcan when the east end of the road was punched through, just wait until the city adds the roundabouts to Leucadaia Blvd and eliminates the stop sign, cars will be backed up to the I-5.

    As for using this intersection as an excuse for a RDA, what folly!! The city doesn't need this intersection nor the flooding as an excuse for an RDA. BTW anonymous, can you be counted on to help sandbag the alleyways and 101 when it rains this winter, doubtful it's always the same JOE's everyyear!!!

    Perhaps the L main/street 101 association could propose a solution for the city regarding the intersection, I'm sure whatever L101 comes up with the city will make them pay for it, just like the flowers in the center median.

    With or without the train the entire length of the tracks should be a green belt of grass and flowers (not the shitty flowers like in the center median now, but giant, long swathes of blooms, R. Naninga won't like it but screw him!!)

    J.P. are you ready for 2+ years of construction along the tracks, with the train running along the east side of 101?? That's where it's going when they finally get around to this project, but don't worry it won't be for at least 20+ years. The city still has a library to finish and then firehouses and then the park and by then the existing city hall will need to be replaced, not to mention Beacons Beach trail and some new lifeguard towers. You get the idea!!! Don't hold your breath for any good changes coming anytime soon!!

    Not holding my breath as I stagger down the 101, it's the Roadside Park Bum!!!

  14. The problem at the Chesterfield crossing in Cardiff is not as bad, but it keeps getting worse as drivers look for ways to get around the gridlock. There is no major east-west artery feeding directly into it as on Leucadia Boulevard. The traffic studies that our city council is required to do always understate traffic flow and impact. They are doing this now on Santa Fe Drive for the Scripps Hospital expansion, and they will do it for the sport complex on the Hall property do. The citizens of Encinitas will be left to deal with the problems afterwards.


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