UPDATED: San Clemente Landslide; Upcoming Storm System, Continued Hillside Movement

Written by Jennifer McLawhorn, Managing Editor
image description
Courtesy of OCTA

SAN CLEMENTE, Calif. – OCTA gives an update on the San Clemente landslide, and an incoming storm system will bring additional rainfall and increase the risk of a mudslide in the area.

UPDATE: On February 1st, OCTA released an update that it requested and received an official emergency declaration from the State on Thursday (2/1). This allows OCTA to access necessary funds to protect the track and restore passenger service.

OCTA CEO Darrell E. Johnson sent a letter to Caltrans Director Tony Tavares. In response, the State “issued an official emergency declaration for the landslide threatening the rail line in the City of San Clemente near the Mariposa pedestrian bridge (Milepost 204.2).” The declaration (below) allows OCTA to access up to $10 million in funds to go toward protecting the track. Johnson expressed gratitude “for the State’s partnership and for recognizing what an important issue this is for regional mobility.”

Director Tavares said, “This section of rail is vital to the economic prosperity of the entire Southern California region and provides critical commuter, intercity and freight rail service every day. This emergency declaration will give OCTA the immediate funding needed to fix this landslide and get the trains moving again as quickly and safely as possible.”

Metrolink CEO Darren Kettle also responded to the declaration, saying, “We appreciate the prompt response from Director Tavares and the belief from Caltrans that this situation is a matter of state concern. It is only through these collective partnerships that we will be able to restore Metrolink service to and from Oceanside, along with Amtrak Pacific Surfliner service to and from San Diego.”

OCTA and Metrolink crews are “still analyzing the most appropriate way to address the slope movement and to protect the track.” As in previous days, crews have recorded minimal hillside movement. As reported earlier (below), heavy rainfall occurred on Thursday, and crews will continue “to monitor and inspect the emergency area, observing soil movement at a reduced rate.” They will continue their storm-water mitigation measures, which include “plastic tarps on the slope and improved drainage.” These methods have proved effective as the rainfall has continued.

Courtesy of Caltrans

On January 29thRT&S reported that OCTA is working with Metrolink to clear the area and restore rail service as quickly as possible after another landslide has suspended rail service. OCTA gave another update on Tuesday, January 30th on the rail closure stating that “the OCTA and Metrolink construction and project team continued to work on the hillside above the right of way near the Mariposa Pedestrian Bridge, owned by the city of San Clemente.” According to OCTA, the project team placed additional pipes and ballast to “integrate with the existing culvert system to further improve water drainage from the hillside.” Metrolink’s track department and grading and excavator observed movement in the area in the early morning of January 29th, according to a press release from Metrolink. The hillside is reported to still move but that it is slowing down significantly. As such, crews are monitoring the drainage and groundwater flow.

Additionally, crews are working to “re-establish a culvert inlet on the inland side of the track that had been covered by landslide debris. To keep the culvert functioning, approximately 30 tons of riprap was placed to ensure proper water drainage.” Because of this, BNSF was able to resume normal freight operations in the area between 9 p.m. Tuesday night and 3 a.m. Wednesday morning. However, OCTA has stated that there will be inspections of the track and confirmations that it is safe “before and after each freight train passes.”

While freight service is starting to resume, KBPS reports that passenger service will remain closed between San Diego and Orange County. Scott Johnson for Metrolink commented “Unfortunately, hillside movement continues to be observable,” and that passengers should continue to use alternative modes of transportation until such time passenger service is restored. The Amtrak Pacific Surfliner is also affected by the closure.

As OCTA works with Metrolink to restore passenger operations to the area, KTLA reports an incoming storm system will bring additional rain to the area. The rainfall expected on Thursday, February 1st presents the risk of a mudslide. San Clemente Mayor Chris Duncan said that the city expects “more [land] movement. . . a few days later once the rain is soaked in. . . So, we will be very vigilant in looking for soft spots and problem areas.” With this being the fifth landslide in the area in the last three years, local officials have requested federal assistance. According to the report, the USDOT will set aside “as much as $30 million for the affected stretch of railway.”

Tags: , , , , , , ,