Two major landslides in the past year near the rail line in San Clemente forced the temporary closure of the track to passenger service for several months.  -  Photo: OCTA

Two major landslides in the past year near the rail line in San Clemente forced the temporary closure of the track to passenger service for several months.

Photo: OCTA

The Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA) announced it is moving forward on studying solutions to protect the coastal rail line that connects passengers, freight, and military assets from San Diego County to Orange County and destinations farther north.

The OCTA Board selected HDR Engineering Inc. as the firm to lead the South Coast Rail Infrastructure Feasibility Study and Alternative Concepts Analysis.

The study will bring together technical experts, public agency partners, and engage stakeholders to pinpoint the issues threatening the rail corridor and offer solutions to protect it.

Why OCTA is Conducting the Study

Two major landslides in the past year near the rail line in San Clemente forced the temporary closure of the track to passenger service for several months while OCTA and its partners worked on emergency projects to stabilize the track and protect it from falling debris.

The track through San Clemente reopened to all service in July and remains open, including to Metrolink regional rail and Amtrak Pacific Surfliner passengers.

Now OCTA is moving ahead with the first of two studies to seek longer-term solutions.

“We’ve seen just how important this rail line is – especially with the challenges of the last year – to the tens of thousands of passengers and the business owners and others who rely on steady train service,” said OCTA chairman Gene Hernandez. “Now that we’ve dealt with the emergencies that forced the track to temporarily close, we will continue to work with urgency with all our partners to ensure our tracks can remain open and reliable.”

Framework for Studies

In February, the OCTA Board approved the two-phase approach, with the first phase to examine short- to medium-term solutions, then a second-phase study that would look at longer-term solutions.

The approval to hire HDR to conduct the first study is an important step in that effort.  

The goals of the Phase 1 study, which include the cities of Dana Point and San Clemente and unincorporated coastal regions of Orange and San Diego counties, include: 

  • Developing options to protect coastal rail infrastructure in its current location
  • Gaining a more detailed understanding of climate effects on the rail line
  • Identifying potential solutions for beach erosion
  • Consulting with key stakeholders and agencies each step of the way

The study is expected to cost approximately $2 million, with grant funding already identified. Future costs for making the necessary improvements to ensure ongoing rail operations along the seven miles of the south Orange County coast would be identified through the study.

The goals of the Phase 2 study, which will look at longer-term options, include: 

  • Partnering with LOSSAN, state and federal agencies
  • Developing options for protecting or potentially moving the rail line
  • Creating an action plan
  • Consulting and engaging residents and key stakeholders throughout the process

OCTA will partner with other agencies such as Metrolink, the LOSSAN Rail Corridor Agency, the California Coastal Commission, United States Army Corps of Engineers, and other stakeholders. 

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