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Lowering the Railroad Tracks

Train traffic through Carlsbad is expected to double by 2035. Since the railroad crosses through two of Carlsbad’s oldest neighborhoods, the Village and Barrio, the planned expansion of a second set of railroad tracks poses unique challenges to the city. 

In Carlsbad, the railroad tracks are mostly at the same level as the street. When a train comes through, safety gates come down and drivers, pedestrians and bicyclists must stop and wait. With an expected 100 trains coming through Carlsbad by 2035, double the amount that currently passes through, the city is exploring ways to address safety, traffic and environmental concerns.

Lowering the railroad tracks below street level in a trench through the Village and Barrio would separate train traffic from street traffic. Trenching the double railroad tracks would create an overpass for drivers, bicyclists and pedestrians over the tracks.

Community Input

The City of Carlsbad, San Diego Association of Governments and North County Transit District held a public input workshop on Nov. 20 at the Harding Community Center to inform the community about the potential project and to seek input about the two proposed alternatives, the short trench and long trench options.

An online public input survey is also available through Dec. 13. Take the online survey here.

Project background

In 2014, the Carlsbad City Council made it a city priority to explore lowering the tracks below street level in a trench through the Village and Barrio. A study conducted by the city, SANDAG and the NCTD determined in 2017 that lowering the railroad tracks into a trench is technically feasible and minimizes safety and traffic concerns. 

As SANDAG plans the construction of double tracks and considers trenching the portion through the Village and Barrio, two alternatives are now under consideration:

  • A short trench running from Carlsbad Boulevard to the north side of Tamarack Avenue
  • A long trench running from Carlsbad Boulevard to the south side of Tamarack Avenue

Both alternatives would: 

  • Replace the railroad bridge across Buena Vista Lagoon
  • Reconstruct the overpass for pedestrians, bicyclists and drivers at Carlsbad Boulevard
  • Create an overpass for pedestrians and bicyclists at Beech Street
  • Create an overpass for pedestrians, bicyclists and drivers at Grand Avenue
  • Create an overpass for pedestrians, bicyclists and drivers at Carlsbad Village Drive 
  • Create an overpass for pedestrians, bicyclists and drivers at Oak Avenue

What’s the difference? The short trench alternative stops north of Tamarack Avenue. It would create an overpass for pedestrians and bicyclists at Chestnut Avenue, but not change the current situation at Tamarack Avenue, where train tracks would remain at street level with pedestrians, bicyclists and drivers. 

The long trench alternative stops south of Tamarack Avenue. It would create overpasses for pedestrians, bicyclists and drivers at both Chestnut Avenue and Tamarack Avenue. 

Examples of What Trenching the Railroad Tracks Could Look Like 

 

Timeline

This project is in the preliminary planning phase. Funding for this potential project has not been secured and a timeline for final design and construction has not yet been set. 

Railroad background info

The 351-mile long intercity and commuter rail corridor in Southern California stretches from San Diego in the south, up the coast to Orange County, Los Angeles County, Ventura County and Santa Barbara County to San Luis Obispo County in the north. This corridor is the second busiest intercity passenger rail line in the United States. 

In the San Diego region, the track is used by the North County Transit District COASTER commuter train, Amtrak Pacific Surfliner and BNSF freight train. To meet increased ridership and demand for additional frequency on commuter and intercity rail services, San Diego Association of Governments, the local agency in charge of making improvements to transportation infrastructure, is improving rail safety and efficiency to the San Diego segment of the rail system. 

Rail safety and efficiency projects along the rail corridor include: 

  • Adding a second set of tracks parallel to the existing tracks (“double tracking”)
  • Replacing/upgrading older bridges and tracks
  • Constructing new platforms
  • Constructing new pedestrian under crossings

Related information

Documents/studies/plans

More information

Want to stay updated with this project and provide your input at future community workshops or online? Sign up for the Village and Barrio Railroad Trench list to receive emails.