The OCTA and Metrolink project team, which has been working to replace the plastic tarps on the site to protect the slope as much as possible from further saturation, will continue to inspect the slope and monitor for any additional slope movement.  -  Photo: OCTA

The OCTA and Metrolink project team, which has been working to replace the plastic tarps on the site to protect the slope as much as possible from further saturation, will continue to inspect the slope and monitor for any additional slope movement.

Photo: OCTA

The California Transportation Commission (CTC) awarded $7.2 million to the Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA) for a construction project to help restore a critical link in Southern California’s rail network.

The new funding from the state — in response to a request sent by OCTA CEO Darrell E. Johnson — allows the OCTA and Metrolink project team to move forward on constructing a catchment wall at Mariposa Point in San Clemente, as well as other mitigation to protect the track from soil and debris from a privately owned slope that slid into the rail right of way in late January.

The $7.2 million is in addition to a previous award from the state of $2 million for cleanup and pre-construction activities at the site. That money was made available when Caltrans declared an official emergency.

Next Steps to Repair Rail Network

With this new emergency allocation, Metrolink signed a design-build contract with Condon-Johnson & Associates, a construction firm that has worked with OCTA on previous emergency rail protection efforts in San Clemente.

As details of the contract are finalized, OCTA, Metrolink, and the LOSSAN Rail Agency, which manages Amtrak’s Pacific Surfliner service, will work on a timeline for safely resuming limited passenger rail service as soon as possible. That timeline has not been determined at this point. The safety of passengers will continue to guide that decision.

The Line’s Issues

Out at the Mariposa Point site (Milepost 204.2), with the project team’s work to remove some additional soil and debris that fell into the rail right of way, BNSF has resumed running freight trains overnight at reduced speed. Those overnight freight trips are expected to continue as the project team closely monitors the slope to ensure safety.

The OCTA and Metrolink project team, which has been working to replace the plastic tarps on the site to protect the slope as much as possible from further saturation, will continue to inspect the slope and monitor for any additional slope movement. More rain is expected late in the weekend and into next week.

Unfortunately, it is becoming increasingly common for California’s transportation infrastructure to suffer storm-related damage, forcing closures and delays. Most recently, indefinite nightly closures were announced for a six-mile stretch of PCH north of Malibu where storm damage sheared off stretches of the roadway.

The Root of the Issues

The rail line was closed through San Clemente the evening of Wednesday, Jan. 24, when a landslide on private property above the city-owned Mariposa Trail Pedestrian Bridge caused major damage to the bridge and scattered debris onto the track.

OCTA, which owns the track, worked with partners at Metrolink and contractors to quickly mobilize emergency crews, who used heavy machinery on the rails to remove debris and haul away two large spans of the bridge, each weighing 24,000 pounds. The OCTA and Metrolink team continues to work to resume safe passenger rail service as soon as possible.

Over the past three years, San Clemente’s eroding bluffs — on both city and private property — have repeatedly forced the closure of the rail line, which has operated largely uninterrupted for more than 125 years.

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