SPECIAL REPORT with videos and photographs: OCTA Stabilizes Tracks in San Clemente Allowing Some Weekend Service Set to Restart Feb. 4.Written by David C. Lester, Editor-in-Chief
Now that the heavy rains have subsided, the Orange County Transportation Authority has been successful in stopping slope movement and stabilizing the tracks in South San Clemente, clearing the way for weekend service to resume.
For the past couple of weeks, RT&S has been reporting on the rain delays impacting the Orange County Transportation Authority’s repair work on its oceanside track. Now that the heavy rains have subsided, OCTA has been successful in stopping slope movement and stabilizing the tracks in South San Clemente, clearing the way for weekend service to resume.
The LOSSAN Rail Authority, which operates Amtrak’s popular Pacific Surfliner, is expected to restart weekend service Saturday, Feb. 4.
Metrolink will continue to operate weekend passenger rail service only as far south as the San Clemente Pier Station.
Metrolink and Amtrak passengers are asked to keep checking pacificsurfliner.com/alerts and metrolinktrains.com for updates on rail service and schedules.
“Even with the recent heavy rain and high tides, our approach to this project has proven effective in keeping the track from moving and we’re pleased to announce that passenger service can safely resume on weekends,” said OCTA Chairman Gene Hernandez, also the Mayor of Yorba Linda. “I want to thank the public for their patience and I hope everyone can understand that ensuring passenger safety guides all of our actions.”
Railroad operators in San Diego had a previously scheduled a weekend track shutdown for January 28-29, which prevents any passenger service between Orange County and San Diego County from starting sooner.
To ensure worker safety and for the most efficient completion of the project, rail service will not operate on weekdays. The beach area is constrained and the work requires the operation and movement of large construction equipment with personnel on and around the tracks. For footage of the construction work visit: bit.ly/TrackStabilization.
OCTA officials reported during this week’s OCTA Board of Directors meeting that movement of the track had stopped after crews finished installing and locking off the first row of grade beam panels and ground anchor tiebacks that are stabilizing the privately owned hillside next to the track.
Crews are excavating for installation of the second row of tiebacks and grade beams. At the same time, geotechnical experts have confirmed that the first row of more than 100 ground anchors drilled into the bedrock along the 700 feet of track have halted its movement.
Inclinometers monitoring for any hillside and track movement have shown no movement since the first row of ground anchors was installed. Site conditions continue to be monitored with passenger safety the top priority.
Recent heavy rains led to delays in the construction schedule. The current schedule estimates work will be completed by the end of March and weekday passenger rail service also could be restored at that time. That schedule is subject to change depending upon additional rain.
The construction work is being completed on a privately owned slope along 700 feet of rail between the ocean and homes above in the Cyprus Shore Homeowners Association, south of the San Clemente Pier.
The work has involved drilling large steel anchors more than 130 feet long into the bedrock of the slope adjacent to the railroad track to prevent it from pushing the track further toward the ocean. The track had moved as much as 28 inches between September 2021 and September 2022 because of storm surge and sand erosion on the coastal side and the gradually sliding hillside on the other.
Passenger rail service, including Amtrak and Metrolink, was stopped in late September out of an abundance of caution and to allow for the emergency repairs.
OCTA is working with state and federal officials to secure necessary funding to pay for the emergency construction, estimated at $12 million. In October, the OCTA board approved the emergency construction and, on the same day, the California Transportation Commission met in a special session and approved $6 million in emergency funding.
In addition to the immediate repair work, OCTA continues to review long-term options for protecting the rail line in this area and throughout the coastal region. OCTA’s priority is to work with all partners to move forward with slope stabilization to ensure safety for all passengers who travel through the area.
OCTA is the owner of 40 miles of track stretching through Orange County, including the 8 miles along the coast through Dana Point and San Clemente. To date, OCTA has invested more than $2 billion in the rail corridor, including $1.3 billion in capital improvements.
Watch drone video (courtesy of OCTA)
For project updates, visit octa.net/railimprovements.