Amtrak’s track closure between Irvine and Oceanside will disrupt Pacific Surfliner train travel for at least another month, which will affect long-distance train travel options for Santa Barbara County residents.
Crews are making emergency repairs to stabilize the hillside next to railroad tracks in San Clemente, according to Amtrak, which estimates that section of railroad track will be closed until mid- to late-November.
The Pacific Surfliner temporarily stopped passenger train service south of Irvine on Sept. 30, due to the need for emergency repairs.
Last week, Amtrak restarted train service south of the closure and started bus connections to serve the track closure area between Irvine, in southern Orange County, and Oceanside, in San Diego County.
The temporary schedule for the Pacific Surfliner, which has bus and train service between San Luis Obispo and San Diego, is available online here.
On Oct. 4, the California Transportation Commission approved $6 million in emergency funding for track stabilization work, according to the Orange County Transportation Authority, the agency that owns the railroad right-of-way between Fullerton and San Diego County border. The emergency construction cost estimate is $12 million.
The repairs will “stabilize the gradually sliding hillside next to the rail line, which would allow for safely restoring passenger service through the area,” OCTA officials said in a statement.
“The track work, which is still being finalized, will involve driving large metal anchors into about 700 feet of the slope adjacent to the railroad track to prevent it from pushing the track further toward the coast. Ground anchors are typically effective in preventing soil movement by installing the steel cables diagonally into the bedrock beneath the slope.”
In a statement released last week, OCTA officials explained the need for repairs and a long-term plan for protecting the railroad tracks in this and other coastal areas.
“In September 2021, heavy rain and storm surge caused movement along the track adjacent to the Cyprus Shore Homeowners Association in southern San Clemente, near Avenida de las Palmera and Calle Ariana. At that time, Metrolink suspended passenger rail service through the area for about three weeks and stabilized the track movement by placing more than 18,000 tons of large boulders, known as rip rap, along the coastal side of the track,” OCTA said.
“While that emergency work stabilized the track for several months, geologists and engineers monitoring the area determined after additional storm surge last month that the adjacent slope was moving again, and the track was moving .01 inches to .04 inches per day. It became evident additional mitigation measures were necessary, including to stabilize the hillside east of the track.
“In addition to the immediate repair work, OCTA continues to review long-term options for protecting the rail line in this area and throughout the coastal region, and will seek input from the public and all stakeholders as it continues to study the issue.”