Emergency work to shore up passenger rail tracks in San Clemente has been completed, allowing weekend service on Amtrak's popular Pacific Surfliner to resume on Saturday, February 4, the Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA) announced yesterday.

“Even with the recent heavy rain and high tides, our approach to this project has proven effective in keeping the track from moving and we’re pleased to announce that passenger service can safely resume on weekends,” said OCTA Chairman Gene Hernandez and Yorba Linda Mayor in a news release. “I want to thank the public for their patience and I hope everyone can understand that ensuring passenger safety guides all of our actions.” 

Service between Irvine and the San Diego area was suspended in September 2022, after inspections revealed that 700 feet of track located on a crumbling seaside bluff had moved as much as 28 inches in the preceding year on account of erosion and storm surge.

Since that point, crews have installed a row of grade beam panels and ground anchor tiebacks to stabilize the hillside above the right-of-way. Crews continue to excavate for a second row of tiebacks and grade beams below the tracks.

No movement of hillside and track have been detected since the first set of ground anchors were installed.

While the heavy rains of late December and early January delayed work, repairs are on track for completion by the end of March, after which point weekday rail service could also be restored. However, that schedule is subject to change depending on weather conditions.

While the Pacific Surfliner may be slowly returning to action, Metrolink's Orange County Line which shares the right-of-way will continue to operate weekend service only as far south as the San Clemente Pier Station.

Schedules and updates on both passenger rail services can be found at pacificsurfliner.com/alerts and metrolinktrains.com.

The total cost of the repairs is estimated at $12 million, half of which was funded through an emergency grant from the California Transportation Commission. State and federal sources could backfill the remaining amount.

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. OCTA’s priority is to work with all partners to move forward with slope stabilization to ensure safety for all passengers who travel through the area. 

OCTA, which owns 40 miles of track stretching through Orange County, has invested more than $1.3 billion in capital improvements to the corridor - and is poised to spend much more. Transportation officials are looking to replace the endangered seaside tracks in San Clemente with a new rail tunnel which could cost $4 billion.

More information is available at octa.net/railimprovements 

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