All regular Metrolink and Amtrak Pacific Surfliner service is scheduled to resume beginning on Monday, April 17, after the Orange County Transportation Authority’s emergency construction work has been successful in stopping slope movement and stabilizing the tracks in south San Clemente, according to OCTA's news release.
“This emergency work has posed an unprecedented challenge, especially with the heavy rainfall this season, and we’re very pleased to announce that passenger service can safely resume on this key stretch of Southern California rail,” said OCTA chairman Gene Hernandez. “We greatly appreciate the public’s patience and their understanding that ensuring passenger safety is always the priority.”
Metrolink plans to resume all regular passenger rail service along its Orange County and Inland Empire-Orange County lines through San Clemente, once again serving Oceanside seven days a week.
“I am very excited about Metrolink resuming service to and from Oceanside,” said Larry McCallon, mayor of the City of Highland in San Bernardino County. “I know the residents of the Inland Empire are looking forward to again taking the train to the beach. I encourage everyone to return to using our rail service to and from the beach areas as the nice weather returns to Southern California. I want to thank our partners at OCTA for their diligence and coordination as we both worked toward ensuring the continued safety of our rail service.”
The LOSSAN Rail Corridor Agency, which manages the popular Amtrak Pacific Surfliner service, has operated weekend service through the work area since the first row of stabilizing ground anchors was installed in early February. Full service, every day of the week, is set to resume on Monday from San Diego to Orange County and destinations further north. A bus connection between Oceanside and Irvine will no longer be required.
“The reopening of the tracks in San Clemente restores vital intercity rail connections between San Diego, Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, and San Luis Obispo,” said Jason Jewell, managing director of the LOSSAN Agency. “We thank our customers for their patience during this extended construction period and look forward to welcoming them back next week.”
Geotechnical experts have confirmed that the more than 200 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 tiebacks and ground anchors was finished in early February. The second row was added for additional stabilization.
Recurring heavy rains since the project began in October led to delays in the construction schedule. 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 130-foot-long ground anchors 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 and its contractors will continue to work in the project area to cover the retaining wall and replant native vegetation. OCTA is working with necessary state and federal agencies to mitigate the impacts of the emergency project.
At the same time, OCTA has set a framework for studying longer-term solutions to address threats to the coastal rail line. The first step is to work with all stakeholders and to partner with appropriate agencies to better understand what is causing the threat and to work on continuing to protect the tracks in place.
OCTA added that it is working with state and federal officials to secure the necessary funding to pay for the longer-term studies and the current construction. The current emergency work cost is approximately $13.7 million. In October, when the OCTA board approved the construction, the California Transportation Commission met in a special session and approved $6 million in emergency funding to help cover that cost.