By Noel T. Braymer
There is 60 miles of track from the Orange County border to downtown San Diego. As of 2009, 30 miles of these 60 miles of track were double tracked. By 2025 San Diego County plans to have 90% of this railroad doubled tracked which is about 54 miles.Before the end of 2015, San Diego County will have 40 miles of double track in service.The point of all this is to run more trains, faster, in San Diego County. So most of the construction projects are designed to increase track capacity and remove bottlenecks on the railroad.
Currently there are 2 segments of double tracking under construction in San Diego County. There is 4.6 miles being added in Camp Pendleton and 1.1 miles in Sorrento Valley which will be fully operational this Fall. There is an additional 1.6 miles of track planned to be double tracked in the near future in Camp Pendleton which will double track most of the railroad on the Base.
View from the train of construction of double track in Camp Pendleton. All photos by Noel T. Braymer. Click on photos to enlarge.
Almost all of the Coast Rail Line in the City of Oceanside is double tracked. Construction is planned to begin later this year for completion next year of a third track and platform at the Oceanside Transit Center. This will create a layover track for Coaster and Metrolink trains that terminate at Oceanside. This will also increase track capacity at Oceanside by freeing up the 2 main tracks at the station where one track is often used for terminated trains.
View of the location of the new third track and platform at the Oceanside Transit Center
Another station project is at the Poinsettia Coaster Station in south Carlsbad. No new tracks are involved. What is planned is a pedestrian undercrossing between the platforms and a fence between the tracks to prevent people from crossing the tracks. Currently passengers have to cross both tracks at grade to get to and from the west platform to the station entrance in the east. Because of the current station layout, no trains are allowed to pass through the station while a train is loading and unloading passengers for safety reasons. By eliminating having people walk across the tracks, more trains will be able to get full use of the 2 tracks at the station when another train is stopped there. This project is planned to be finished in 2016.
View of the one of the three crossings across the tracks at the Poinsettia Coaster Station
The largest increase in new double tracking in San Diego County by 2020 will be in the north end of the City of San Diego. This is part of a project to extend the San Diego Trolley Blue Line from downtown San Diego north to Old Town, UCSD and the University Towne Centre. At the same time of the Trolley construction will also be work on the same right of way to add and connect more double tracking to the existing railroad in this area by the end of 2017. Part of this will build a new double track bridge over the San Diego River just north of Old Town with construction starting next year. This will also create almost a mile of new double track. But it will also connect 2 segments of existing double track creating 7 miles of continuous double track by the end of 2017.
The existing single track bridge over the San Diego River next to the Green Line of the San Diego Trolley
The other double track project in north San Diego built along side the Blue Line extension is between Highway 52 and Mission Bay. On the railroad this is between Elvira and Morena. This will result in 2.6 miles of new double track. There will also be straightening of the curvy segments of tracks in Elvira which will increase speeds for trains in this area. Construction of this project is planned to begin later this year and finish by summer 2018. With these 2 projects connecting to existing double tracking will create 10.3 miles of continuous double tracking in the city of San Diego.
The view at Elvira from the train in San Diego next to a creek the line was built next to. Construction near bodies of water pose problems dealing with environmental issues. Plans to build double track at Elvira go back to the 1980’s.
The biggest issue in San Diego to double tracking is the need to build new rail bridges, All of the old wooden bridges built by the ATSF are being replaced one at a time with new, concrete bridges with lower maintenance costs and built higher than the wooden bridges to be better able to survive future floods. There are many places in San Diego County where new bridges are needed over the many lagoons and wetland areas in the County.Two examples of this are first, the new rail bridge over the Batiquitos Lagoon between Carlsbad and Encinitas. With this new double tracked bridge it will be possible to extend double tracking 2.7 miles from the southern end of Carlsbad to just outside the Coaster Station in downtown Encinitas. This is planned for completion by Spring of 2019. Another Lagoon is the San Elijo Lagoon between the Cardiff by the Sea community and Solana Beach. This new double tracked bridge will add 1.5 miles of new double tracking and create over 4 miles of continuous double tracking by connecting it to existing double tracking. This project is planned to be finished by early 2018.
View from Encinitas of the single track and part of the Batiquitos Lagoon.
Between the border to the south with Carlsbad at the Buena Vista Lagoon to the north end of Oceanside by Camp Pendleton almost all of the Coast Line railroad in Oceanside is doubled tracked. A small gap is at the north of Oceanside is caused by the old single tracked bridge over the San Luis Rey River. With the replacement of the San Luis Rey River railroad bridge and almost a mile of new double track in northern Oceanside will create 10.3 miles of continuous double track from Oceanside to the existing double tracking in Camp Pendleton. When the last 1.6 miles of double tracking is funded and built in the middle of Camp Pendleton, this will create almost 20 miles of continuous double tracking within Oceanside and the Base. The San Luis Rey River rail bridge is planned to be finished by 2020.
The single track railroad bridge over the San Luis Rey River at the north end of Oceanside
After 2020, the remaining projects for double tracking in San Diego County become harder to build and more expensive. Current plans call for San Diego County to have 90% double tracking by 2025. Those last 6 miles include 2 miles for double tracking in the canyon areas at Miramar. That alone is estimated at around $100 million dollars. There is also plans after 2030 to extend double tracking south of Oceanside into downtown Carlsbad and a new bridge and double tracking by the Del Mar Fair grounds with a platform for Fairground events. The last major project is a proposed tunnel between Del Mar and Sorrento Valley to bypass the Del Mar Cliffs and Los Penaquitos Lagoon and wetlands with a high speed double tracked tunnel. This tunnel is proposed sometime after 2040 is estimated to cost over a billion dollars.The cost for all the other double tracking projects in San Diego County is budgeted for a billion dollars.