San Diego Association of Governments leaders virtually cut the ribbon on a three-mile segment of the Inland Rail Trail in North County San Diego Friday, part of a planned 21-mile bike and pedestrian route between Escondido and Oceanside.
The section of the Inland Rail Trail is a dedicated multi-use path that runs along the Sprinter rail line in the North County Transit District right-of-way. With this section of the Inland Rail Trail complete, people can now bike, walk or roll along more than 10 continuous miles of pathway, between the Escondido Transit Center and Mar Vista Drive in Vista.
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SANDAG Chair and Encinitas Mayor Catherine Blakespear joined Vista Mayor Judy Ritter, SANDAG Executive Director Hasan Ikhrata and San Diego County Bicycle Coalition Executive Director Andy Hanshaw during the virtual ribbon-cutting ceremony on SANDAG's Facebook page.
"Adding miles to bikeways is so important as people bike and walk more than ever during the pandemic," Blakespear said. "We can make great strides as a community to reduce our impact on the environment and play a part in our region's effort to meet our greenhouse gas emission reduction goals by offering residents healthy, safe, and viable transportation choices."
The latest completed phase includes a 2.5-mile section between Cherimoya Drive in the unincorporated county and Mar Vista Drive in Vista, and a half-mile section between North Drive and North Melrose Drive in Vista.
These sections of the trail are intended to improve transportation connections to local destinations such as schools, parks and the Buena Creek Sprinter station.
"The Inland Rail Trail connects the cities of Vista, Oceanside, San Marcos and Escondido and provides access to the entire Regional Bike Network, playing an exciting role in connecting the entire San Diego region," Ritter said. "The trail gives residents more options to plan a trip, commute to work or just enjoy a day out on the town."
The Inland Rail Trail is part of the SANDAG Regional Bike Plan Early Action Program, an initiative approved by the Board of Directors in 2013 to construct a regional network of pedestrian-friendly streets and bikeways intended to make them safer and more comfortable for every person who uses them, regardless of age, race or physical ability.
SANDAG previously completed a one-mile section of the trail in San Marcos in early 2017 and will be completing three more miles of the trail as part of two future projects.
Construction of a one-mile segment of the trail between Mar Vista Drive and Civic Center Drive in Vista is expected to begin in 2022. A planned two-mile segment of the bikeway that runs between Civic Center Drive and North Drive in Vista will be part of a future project when a funding source is identified for construction.
The approximately $16.2 million newly constructed three-mile segment of the Inland Rail Trail was funded through a combination of federal, state and local sources, including TransNet, the regional, voter-approved half-cent sales tax for transportation improvement projects administered by SANDAG.