San Elijo Lagoon
The San Elijo Lagoon. Photo credit: Tim Buss for the Southern California Wetlands Recovery Project

Elected officials and community leaders joined Saturday to celebrate completion of new walking and biking trails at the San Elijo Lagoon Ecological Reserve.

The work, begun five years ago, includes highway and rail improvements and environmental features.

The project, a collaboration between Caltrans and SANDAG and part of the Build North Coast Corridor (NCC) program, includes $124 million of TransNet environmental mitigation funds for the restoration of the the lagoon.

“These critical improvements to our rail line, Interstate 5, new bikeways and walkways, and the restoration of the San Elijo Lagoon are essential to ensuring our 40-year multimodal investment will have lasting impacts on our region,” SANDAG Chair and Encinitas Mayor Catherine Blakespear.

The lagoon project, which preserved 155 acres of land, is one of the largest restoration efforts in San Diego County. It includes new mudflats, tidal dredging, beach sand replenishment and enhanced wetlands and uplands in the east and west basins. The project also will help improve tidal flow for future sea-level rise.

Other improvements include the completion of new walking and biking trails connecting Encinitas and Solana Beach, a 1.5-mile rail double-track, a new suspended bike and pedestrian bridge above the lagoon, and community enhancements at two Encinitas interchanges. 

Additionally, nine miles of new carpool and high occupancy vehicle lanes were opened along I-5 between Lomas Santa Fe Drive and Palomar Airport Road.

After a ribbon cutting, members of the public explored the new features in the day-long celebration. As part of the festivities, the San Diego County Bicycle Coalition led dignitaries and community members on a commemorative bike ride.

“We are proud to be a part of this historical program of multimodal infrastructure improvements,” said Caltrans District 11 Director Gustavo Dallarda. “This project improves mobility and enhances quality of life for residents while also ensuring the coastal environment is protected for future generations.”

The Build NCC project began in 2017 as part of a 40-year program. Multiple beach nourishment and lagoon restoration projects make up the program, to enhance local environmental conservation efforts.

“This is the infrastructure our region needs — infrastructure that’s convenient and flexible so you can get around whether you decide to bike, drive, or walk. Infrastructure that doesn’t take away from our natural treasures, but instead makes them easier to enjoy,” said Supervisor Terra Lawson-Remer, who represents the area on the county’s Board of Supervisors.