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Del Mar Depot Faces Closure, Demolition : Mass Transit: Panel's vote means the railroad station would be abandoned by both Amtrak trains and rail commuter trains when a Solana Beach station is built.

October 28, 1989|NANCY RAY | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The rail depot at Del Mar, which has been host to trains and tourists for 100 years or more, faces closure and probable demolition after a vote Friday by a committee of the San Diego Assn. of Governments.

The railroad station, the only Amtrak passenger stop between Oceanside and San Diego, would be abandoned by both Amtrak trains and rail commuter trains when a Solana Beach station is built by late 1992.

The Oceanside-to-San Diego commuter trains would operate eight daily runs, stopping at nine stations along the 43-mile route to bring North County commuters into San Diego for work or shopping in the morning and home again in the late afternoon.

Over protests by Del Mar Mayor Brooke Eisenberg that the loss of Amtrak service would be an economic shock to her seaside community, the commuter rail policy board members voted to consolidate all rail service in the area at the Solana Beach commuter rail station, which will be built at Lomas Santa Fe Drive and California 101, in the center of the city.

The policy committee, newly expanded to include representatives from the coastal communities along the route, voted unanimously to approve the Lomas Santa Fe commuter depot site.

Eisenberg's was the only negative vote in a separate ballot to consolidate all Del Mar and Solana Beach train service at the Solana Beach station.

Former state Sen. Jim Mills outlined the reasons that the Del Mar station has already been stricken from the stops on the future commuter route, explaining that insufficient parking, difficulty in serving the Del Mar station with buses and lack of handicapped access on the site made the depot unsatisfactory.

Train service to Del Mar began in the 1880s, when the seaside city's first developers lured buyers down with offers of free train rides and weekend stays at a local resort hotel. Today, it is used by northbound commuters and by race fans who come for the seven-week Del Mar Race Track thoroughbred racing season each summer.

Solana Beach Councilwoman Celine Olson said the Lomas Santa Fe site was approved by the City Council with the understanding that it would be the stop for both commuter and Amtrak trains. She said plans under study include up to 800 parking spaces for the rail users and for customers of a proposed commercial center to be built with the depot.

Olson suggested that Del Mar run a shuttle bus between the new Solana Beach station and their town to cushion the loss of trade.

Solana Beach city officials had sought to have the Santa Fe tracks--to be used by both the Amtrak and commuter trains--put below street level to prevent traffic tie-ups caused by the trains stopping at the Lomas Santa Fe-Highway 101 intersection, where the station will be.

Sandag staff said lowering the tracks would cost about $30 million--the whole commuter line is budgeted at $70 million--but promised to seek more money for to put the tracks underground later and to design the station so that it will not preclude service from the lower rail level.

The decision on the location of the commuter rail station at Solana Beach completes the site location decisions along the commuter rail route. Final approval of the entire line will go before the policy board Dec. 1.

The plan calls for a station at the Oceanside Transit Center, at Grand Avenue and at Poinsettia Lane in Carlsbad, north of D Street in Encinitas, north of Lomas Santa Fe Drive in Solana Beach, in Sorrento Valley near the junction of Interstates 5 and 805, south of Miramar Road west of the Miramar Naval Air Station, in Old Town and at the Santa Fe Depot in downtown San Diego.

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