SAN CLEMENTE, Calif. – A landslide halts Amtrak and Metrolink service in Orange County.
Not for the first time, a landslide has impacted rail service along the track between San Clemente and San Juan Capistrano. Near the Casa Romantica Cultural Center and Gardens, fallen rocks and debris were found Monday morning. This route is the only track between Los Angeles and San Diego that carries both passengers and freight to other stations across the U.S.
Metrolink and Amtrak service along the route has been suspended until the debris can be cleared away. Amtrak officials commented that it “will reopen once the debris has been cleared and it is determined safe to operate trains through the area. . . We are working with partner agencies to secure buses to transport passengers around the closures”.
The same area had been closed earlier this year in April for fallen debris and re-opened service only a couple of weeks ago. The Mayor of San Clemente, Chris Duncan, described the hillside as “sandy, it’s a clay material[.] It doesn’t stick well together. . . It wants to slide and it’s smooth”.
Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA) spokesman, Eric Carpenter told The San Diego Union-Tribune, “Geotechnical engineers are assessing the situation . . . We don’t have a timeline for re-establishing service at this point”. OCTA has hired contractors to “reinforce a rock revetment on the beach and installed steel anchors into the hillside to stabilize the slope at Cyprus Shore”. This came at a cost of $13.7 million. Last April, California’s Transit and Intercity Rail Capital Program gave OCTA $5 million to research relocating 11 miles of track possibly to an area along I-5 because of the current area’s coastal erosion.
A Del Mar segment of track construction could move to an inland tunnel under Rep. Mike Levin’s support. Though the project has already been presented with $300 million for plans, a relocation of the track segment would cost more than $4 billion. San Diego says it’s “on track to begin the final design for the Del Mar segment in 2026, and that construction could start in 2028 and be completed in 2035”.