Efforts to Stall Transit Center Appear Doomed

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Carlsbad's efforts to dump or at least delay construction of a downtown commuter rail station appears destined for failure.

"The board is in no mood to change anything," Celine Olson, vice chairman of the North County Transportation District, said on Friday. "It is too late to change anything."

Any delay or change in plans at this point, after about five years of planning, could cost taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars, Olson said.

Carlsbad leaders agree with NCTD that the city has no power to stop construction of the depot, which will include a bus station. The district will soon own the land, it is properly zoned, and the district is a state agency with rights that supersede the city's, said Olson and NCTD staffers.

The opposition "seems very late in the game and, frankly, not very well thought out," transportation district director Pam Slater said Friday.

That may be bad news for the Carlsbad City Council, which voted July 7 to withdraw support for the Grant Avenue and State Street station in the face of growing opposition from downtown business and property owners.

Opposition to the station was led by Craig Bauer, co-owner of Bauer Lumber, one of two businesses that would be displaced by station construction.

The district, which provides commuter bus service throughout North County, is the lead agency in a planned $140-million Oceanside-to-San Diego commuter rail project.

Those plans leaped forward in June when Santa Fe Railway, after more than two years of negotiations, agreed to sell more than 300 miles of right of way in Southern California to a consortium of local transportation agencies.

That includes track for a commuter-rail line with nine stations between Oceanside and San Diego scheduled to begin carrying passengers in November, 1994, if construction on stations can start within a year. It also includes a 22-mile corridor with 17 stations for a light-rail system between Oceanside and Escondido that may be under construction within the next several years.

In 1990, with little opposition, the Carlsbad council approved construction of two commuter rail stations in Carlsbad: One downtown and the other about 4 miles south at Poinsettia Lane.

Transit officials, including NCTD Rail marketing officer Pete Aadland, have said each of the five North County stations is critical to the success of the rail system, designed to relieve traffic congestion on Interstate 5.

The nine-member NCTD board has taken no formal stand on the July 7 Carlsbad action because no formal request to drop the depot has been received from Carlsbad, said Olson.

Carlsbad Mayor Bud Lewis said he signed a letter to NCTD this week, and that it should have been mailed Thursday or Friday. The letter was delayed, he said, as various officials worked on the wording.

Lewis said he has been informed and has attempted to explain to people that NCTD has the authority in this issue. So Carlsbad's letter is only a request to delay building the downtown site until after the system is operating and it can be shown that it is really necessary.

Copyright © 2019, Los Angeles Times
EDITION: California | U.S. & World
52°