Not All Aboard

Twenty feet from the front door of a stone-fronted Del Mar home, just south of the San Dieguito River, sits a white-wooden structure that houses railroad utilities. The structure marks the spot where North County Transit District officials, with the support of management at the Del Mar Fairgrounds, propose placing a temporary train stop for Thoroughbred buffs and visitors to the fairgrounds.

The proposed train terminus, expected to be completed in a year, will be the drop-off and pickup point for both the lucky and unlucky, the sober and intoxicated.

The residents living in the beachside homes adjacent to the stop feel that they are the losers in the deal.

With next year's closure of Hollywood Park Racetrack and more meets coming to Del Mar, the number of people riding trains bound for the fairgrounds will increase. The new stop and the additional meets at Del Mar means more noise for those living near the train tracks.

In early August, 29 Del Mar residents looking to fix the issue signed a petition to abandon the temporary train stop and jockey for a permanent stop north of the San Dieguito River, on the west side of the racetrack.

"We find such a proposal inadequate and dysfunctional to our interests in every respect. Both SANDAG and [North County Transit District] should cooperate and collaborate in a productive manner to facilitate the development and implementation of the permanent train stop," read the petition addressed to Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, SANDAG, City of Solana Beach, City of Del Mar, and the Del Mar Fairgrounds.

The permanent stop has been included in the master plan for the fairgrounds since 1985 but because of funding has been put out to pasture in favor of a faster solution.

Deputy Manager for the Del Mar Fairgrounds, Becky Bartling, believes funding for a permanent stop is a long shot. "The cost of replacing the bridge and double tracking from south of the river to Solana Beach is estimated to be $80 million," writes Bartling in an August 23 email. "SANDAG and North County Transit District do not anticipate that any funding for this project would be available for at least ten years."

When asked whether the 22nd District Agricultural Association, the body that governs the fairgrounds, has received the signed petition, Bartling responded that her agency has not received any such petition.

Bartling added that although a permanent stop north of the river is preferred, until funding is found, a temporary platform south of the San Dieguito River is the next best thing.

"These residents will be the beneficiaries of less traffic in their community as a result of the temporary rail platform south of the river. We are confident that careful consideration will be taken to minimize any impact to the residents in the vicinity of the platform."

Alex Wiggins, spokesperson for the North County Transit District, the lead agency behind the temporary stop, did not respond to this correspondent's questions.

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There she goes again. Becky Bartling providing totally erroneous information.

The petitions to the three Fair Board/RTLC members were hand delivered to Vanessa, the receptionist in Bartling’s office.

And as to funding the train stop, the cost of the train stop (a platform and access ramps) is $4 million not $80 million. Of course the way they run things down at the fairgrounds that $4 million dollar project could end up costing $80 million.

There is precedence for that. Bartling personally told us in 2007 that the project to close the roof over the Horse Arena would cost $4 million. It ended up costing over $15 mil. AND was managed so poorly the “roof closing” most would contend did not need closing in the first place - was built so it now blocks the view of the Stewards (the referees) and fans of the start of some races….and nasty things the Stewards should watch for can take place in the starting gates. We call that “Arena Roof-Gate.”

As to the need new trestles claim before they can build the stop, that is a giant lie. FIRST, the NCTD is about to spend over $3 million to “strengthen the existing trestle” making it last at least another 20 years if needed, and SECOND there are three competing alignments for where the tracks will go south of the river. Each route requires any new trestles to be built at a different angle and elevation….so even if they had unlimited money they still could not build new trestles as, as Sarah Palin would say: “they would be building a bridge to I don’t know where.”

Last, the Race Track Leasing Commission put a provision in the RFP for the VERY lucrative contract to run the races at Del Mar requiring the “involvement” of the new selected race operator to fund the “Permanent” train stop. Bartling’s staff and their “attorney” watered down the language passed by the RTLC and they buried the weakened words in the middle of a paragraph on the next to the last page of the RFP but funding the “Permanent” stop is in there….so they now have cooked up a “Temporary” stop to get their buddies at the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club (the only bidder for this very slightly advertised State contract – that’s called Under the Radar) - they think calling the stop buried deep in the neighborhoods south of the river “temporary” will get the DMTC off the funding hook.

Worst yet, the city staff in Del Mar and the spouse of one of the key "temp stop" proponents tell us they will declare it the “Permanent” one once it is in.

That is being more than just being misleading. Such behavior is reprehensible. Bartling and her boss Tim Fennell, both state employees, deserve in our judgment to be FIRED.

Helen and Richard Eckfield Savvy Seniors, Frugal and Action.

Want to know more: Go to our postings at Voice Of San Diego http://www.voiceofsandiego.org/peoplespost/savvyseniors/

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