Featured Image: Pictured is the construction equipment used to drop rip rap, or large boulders, on the side of the train tracks in south San Clemente, in the fall of 2021—when commuter rail service was halted the first time because of movement reported on the tracks. Photo: Shawn Raymundo
By Shawn Raymundo
Emergency construction has begun to stabilize the train tracks in southern San Clemente, where movement was recently detected, prompting a monthslong suspension of commuter rail service, the Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA) announced Monday, Nov. 14.
According to the county’s transportation agency, the work is expected to be completed in February, but noted that the timeline of the project is subject to change because of inclement weather, as well as “the securing and manufacturing (of) necessary construction materials.”
“We are attempting to get this emergency work done as quickly as possible with safety continuing to guide all of our actions,” OCTA Chairperson Mark A. Murphy said in the announcement.
“Like everyone, we want to see Metrolink and Amtrak Pacific Surfliner safely running again through this area,” Murphy, also the mayor of Orange, continued. “At the same time, we need first to ensure the track is no longer moving.”
Following a storm surge that hit Southern California, transportation officials reported movement on the track that sits just below an ancient landslide, triggering Metrolink and Amtrak’s decision in late September to halt all passenger rail service between the Laguna Niguel/Mission Viejo station and the Oceanside station.
During a special Oct. 3 meeting, the OCTA’s governing board gave the agency the green light to hire a contractor on an emergency basis and begin the roughly $12 million project that will have crews 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.
For the project, OCTA has tapped geotechnical contractor Condon-Johnson & Associates Inc.
“Project engineers and geotechnical experts will continually monitor the slope next to the track during construction,” OCTA said in the announcement. “Rail service could possibly resume prior to construction completion in February. OCTA will work in partnership with all rail agencies to determine at what point service can safely restart.”
OCTA said it has worked with state and federal officials to allocate the funds needed for the project that’s estimated to cost about $12 million. It noted in the announcement, $6 million in funded was recently approved by the California Transportation Commission.
The past few weeks, according to OCTA, have been used to clear vegetation around the construction zone and conduct initial grading work. The agency added that this week it will begin notifying residents near the construction area, such as those in the Cyprus Shore community, of the upcoming work.
A couple of aspects of those plans include using the vacant lot at Avenida de las Palmera and Calle Ariana to stage equipment for producing concrete, and excavating and grading the construction site where the ground anchors will be installed.
According to OCTA, construction crews will be working on weekdays from about 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.
While commuter train services are still suspended at the San Clemente and San Juan Capistrano stations during the weekdays, Metrolink recently announced that it has resumed limited weekend service to those stops, as well as the San Clemente Pier for the Orange County and Inland Empire-Orange County lines.
Shawn Raymundo is the managing editor for Picket Fence Media. He graduated from Arizona State University with a bachelor’s degree in Global Studies. Before joining Picket Fence Media, he worked as the government accountability reporter for the Pacific Daily News in the U.S. territory of Guam. Shawn previously held the position of city editor for the San Clemente Times, and for The Capistrano Dispatch before that. Shawn can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 949.388.7700 ext. 113. Follow him on Twitter @ShawnzyTsunami and follow all of PFM’s publications including the San Clemente Times @SCTimesNews; The Capistrano Dispatch @CapoDispatch; and Dana Point Times @DanaPointTimes.