At yesterday’s City Council meeting, after a brief remote presentation from two SANDAG representatives (Danny Veeh and Brandy Sweitzer) laying out the proposed schedule for public outreach and the timeline for relocating the tracks from the Del Mar bluff to a tunnel, a packed Town Hall audience gave voice to their concerns about the impacts of a train tunnel under Del Mar. Twenty speakers expressed opposition to a Del Mar tunnel, with most favoring the I-5 alignment (the lowest rated option of five alignments in the 2021 SANDAG study).
Council members then asked questions of the SANDAG reps and expressed their views, with Terry Gaasterland and David Druker pledging as Del Mar’s representatives to the SANDAG Board to work to ensure an open and transparent process as SANDAG works toward a final decision in 2026.
Deputy Mayor Dan Quirk insisted on a cost-benefit analysis of the project with an expected $5 billion price tag, asserting “there is no way this project pencils out,” and calling it one of the biggest “boondoggles” in America today; he accused SANDAG of “setting a trap” for Del Mar.
Councilmembers Dave Druker and Dwight Worden were more realistic, with both noting that SANDAG is just beginning key studies for the project – geotechnical, design, impacts to Del Mar, and more – and does not yet have answers to many of the questions asked at the meeting. Druker emphasized, “nothing has been decided as of yet, except the train is going to get off the bluff, number one, and number two, there is going to be a train. The train is not going to go magically away.” Worden noted that this is not just a Del Mar issue, with the LOSSAN train corridor extremely valuable to the entire region, and urged that Del Mar provide “sensible input” based on the information that becomes available as studies are completed, and work with other stakeholders during the environmental review process to ensure that every viable tunnel option, including the I-5 alignment, is fully evaluated.
Presumably everyone agreed on the urgency of getting the train tracks off the bluff, but the prevailing sentiment appeared to be that the tracks need to be relocated out of Del Mar entirely, and some seeming to support Quirk’s position that a cost-benefit analysis would somehow lead to the end of train service through Del Mar.
The SANDAG presentation pegged the planning and review stages and final alignment decision to 2026, and the construction phase from 2028 to 2035. The SANDAG reps noted that detailed updates would be available at public outreach meetings beginning in late August or September of this year. This was poorly received by the large crowd that assembled in response to outreach from some council members to attend this meeting with the expectation that substantial new information would be available. The credibility of SANDAG’s outreach efforts to date was widely criticized, and its plan for future outreach was met with skepticism from many in the room. In sum, it was a long and frustrating night, with more heat than light.