Within the next 10 days, the Orange County Transportation Authority expects to have completed construction of a track protection wall in the agency’s right of way below Casa Romantica Cultural Center & Gardens, officials told the OCTA governing board Monday, July 10.
After a second landslide at Casa Romantica on June 5 caused debris and other materials to fall onto the track tracks—resulting in another suspension of passenger rail services through town—construction crews have established the wall using two large drilling rigs to install 32 steel soldier piles.
Jim Beil, executive director of Capital Programs for OCTA, updated the board about the progress Monday before the group reaffirmed a resolution allowing CEO Darrell Johnson to take necessary actions to address the railroad emergency in San Clemente.
“I anticipate this will be the last reaffirmation on the railroad emergency you’ll have to act on,” Beil said. “Metrolink has not yet indicated a date for passenger service resumption, but based on the progress, I believe it may be possible sometime next week.”
The board’s approval to construct the protection wall followed slope stabilization work the City of San Clemente had completed at Casa Romantica on May 26—a little more than a week before the second landslide occurred.
Casa Romantica experienced the first landslide on April 27, when the local landmark’s backyard terrace, landscaping and other debris fell roughly 25 feet down the hillside, prompting the Metrolink and Amtrak to halt passenger rail services between South Orange County and North San Diego County.
Until the second landslide, rail services had resumed over Memorial Day weekend, starting May 26.
After Metrolink, or the Southern California Regional Rail Authority, awarded a contract to geotechnical contractor Condon-Johnson & Associates, construction began on June 27.
According to Beil, the remaining work for the week includes minor grading, clearing the rock ballast, and restoring protective fencing.
The wall will remain in place until the City of San Clemente completes its own slope stabilization work, a condition included within the Emergency Coastal Development Permit the California Coastal Commission gave for the project.
Johnson, OCTA’s chief executive, reminded the board Monday that along with the protection wall, the agency is also pursuing a “two-path process.” The process consists of conducting a roughly $2 million short-term study and a $5 million long-term study—the latter of which recently received grant funding.
“We will be asking the Regional Transportation Planning Committee on Aug. 7 and the board on Aug. 14 to award to that contract,” Johnson said of the short-term study.