After months of work to stabilize the train track in south San Clemente that saw delays because of heavy rainfall in the early months of 2023, full passenger rail services will resume between South Orange County and San Diego County starting Monday, April 17, according to the Orange County Transportation Authority.
Metrolink will restart all regular service to and from Oceanside through San Clemente, as will Amtrak with its Pacific Surfliner line, concluding OCTA’s nearly six-and-a-half-month project to stabilize the rail line after movement was detected following a storm surge this past fall.
During construction project, Metrolink traveled as far south as the San Clemente Pier, suspending services to Oceanside. Amtrak’s southbound lines took passengers as far as San Juan Capistrano while offering a connector bus between the Irvine and Oceanside stations.
OCTA Board Chair Gene Hernandez said the agency appreciated the public’s patience as it prioritized passenger safety with the rail suspension, according to a media 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 Hernandez.
On Sept. 30, 2022, Metrolink and Amtrak announced an indefinite suspension after movement was detected on the track. Just over a month later, the OCTA Board of Directors issued an emergency need for stabilization before contracting with Condon-Johnson and Associates for the $12 million construction project.
Work to prevent the line from moving closer to the shore began in November, as crews drove large metal anchors into roughly 700 feet of slope adjacent to the track.
Limited weekend service to San Diego County resumed on Feb. 4 following the completion of emergency stabilization.
Larry McCallon, chair of the Metrolink Board of Directors, expressed excitement about the return of services and gratitude toward OCTA for its work.
“I know the residents of the Inland Empire are looking forward to again taking the train to the beach,” said McCallon. “I encourage everyone to return to using our rail service to and from the beach areas as the nice weather returns to Southern California.”
OCTA officials reported at the board’s meeting on Monday, April 10, that the construction was effective in stopping all track movement, and that crews will finish installing the second row of grade beam panels and tiebacks into a nearby hillside later this week.
A representative of the Los Angeles-San Diego-San Luis Obispo Rail Corridor Agency (LOSSAN) also provided comment.
“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 Managing Director Jason Jewell. “We thank our customers for their patience during this extended construction period and look forward to welcoming them back next week.”
Other recent developments concerning the track in San Clemente include OCTA staff presenting a framework to seek funding for supporting continued railroad usage and the board’s vote to initiate a $2 million study of the nearly 7-mile stretch of rail from Dana Point south to unincorporated parts of northern San Diego County.
The South Coast Rail Infrastructure Feasibility Study and Alternative Concepts Analysis would prioritize future planning efforts and identify short- and medium-term solutions to protect the track that abuts the ever-encroaching shoreline.
Katrina Foley, Fifth District Board supervisor of Orange County and OCTA board member, said in a media release in March that she looks forward to meeting with stakeholders to help develop solutions.
“We must look past temporary fixes,” said Foley. “This rail corridor study and concurrent sand replenishment efforts are necessary steps towards identifying and implementing long-term solutions to prevent further coastal erosion and its impacts on our way of life.”
Additionally, Rep. Mike Levin announced on Tuesday, April 11, that he will hold a press conference at noon at San Clemente State Beach on Thursday, April 13, to discuss the impact of coastal erosion on the LOSSAN corridor.
The briefing will be the second of the day, as Levin will travel north from San Diego with U.S. Federal Railroad Administration representative Amit Bose and meet with other local officials.