OCTA Identifies Long-Term Rail Stabilization Efforts for San Clemente

Written by Kyra Senese, Managing Editor
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OCTA track stabilization crews clearing vegetation.

The Orange County Transportation Authority announced this week it made a crucial step in identifying ways to protect the coastal rail line that runs through south Orange County.

The OCTA Board of Directors approved releasing a request for proposals for the South Coast Rail Infrastructure Feasibility Study and Alternative Concepts Analysis, which will collaborate with partners to evaluate the concerns threatening track stability and inform future planning efforts to find effective solutions, at a March 13 meeting.

The action comes just two weeks after the OCTA Board approved a framework for addressing rail vulnerabilities in Orange County to help maintain continuous rail service for passenger and freight transportation along the nation’s second busiest rail line, a release said.

“While the priority has been to complete the emergency work as soon as possible, we are also moving forward quickly with our partners to find longer-term solutions,” said OCTA Chairman Gene Hernandez, also the Mayor of Yorba Linda. “This is just the beginning of an effort that will help us ensure that rail traffic can continue moving safely and efficiently through this corridor for passengers, commerce and our military interests.”

This two-year planning study will examine present and future risks and identify obstacles to rail service maintenance and operations along the coastal rail route through Orange County.

Key stakeholders and technical experts will be involved in the study. Throughout this planning process, collaboration with local, state, and federal partners will be strengthened, OCTA said. The study is estimated to cost $2 million, with grant funding already identified. It will serve as the foundation for future attempts to reduce the risks to track stability.

This study is the first step in a multi-part process to investigate short- to medium-term strategies to protect the existing rail line, a release said. A separate second-phase study would look at longer-term solutions, such as possible rail line relocation.

The second phase of the study is expected to cost $5 million, and OCTA is actively looking for outside funding. If the financing is obtained, the investigations will proceed concurrently, OCTA said.

The emergency work continues along 700 feet of rail line in south San Clemente. Following recent severe rains that caused construction to be halted, crews returned to work on March 13 to place ground anchors and tie-backs to support the hillside next to the tracks.

The railway has stopped shifting since the first set of ground anchors was installed in late January, allowing weekend passenger rail service to resume safely. The LOSSAN Rail Authority, which operates Amtrak’s Pacific Surfliner, resumed weekend passenger service on Feb. 4.