Saturday, October 16, 2021

Railroad stabilization underway on OC Coast, while passengers scramble to find rides

Rose Zadan was waiting at the train station in North San Clemente, not knowing what to do.

Most of the day, the same 10 or so passengers assemble at the platform early in the morning as part of their daily routine, but others had already left after discovering that the train had not arrived.

Zadan had to move to downtown Los Angeles to take a job at his sister’s store. An Uber would cost him at least $100. Even getting her back home in San Clemente was proving difficult so early in the morning.

“It’s a problem,” she said of Wednesday’s announcement that train services would have to be halted by early October to repair nearby tracks.

Large waves and high tides have caused the tracks to shift to an area of ​​South San Clemente near Cypress Shores, a private community tucked behind gates and dotted with multimillion-dollar homes.

Workers were already on train tracks on Thursday, 16 September, with heavy equipment dropping boulders to add a layer of protection from the sea. Service between south of Laguna Niguel/Mission Viejo station – including San Juan Capistrano and San Clemente – and Oceanside is expected to stop through October 3 for repairs.

43 passenger trains pass through that area in a day. Metrolink spokesman Paul Gonzales said that based on recent Metrolink ridership numbers for July and August, there are about 150 passengers boarding the train in San Juan Capistrano and San Clemente, and 191 a day from Oceanside. .

The closure will affect commuters using Amtrak’s Pacific Surfliner and Metrolink’s Orange Line, which runs between Los Angeles and Oceanside, and its inland Empire-Orange County Line, which connects San Bernardino to Oceanside.

“It dawned on us very quickly. We moved quickly yesterday to marshal the resources we had, start work on time, and come up with a plan to communicate with our riders and the entire community,” Gonzales said. “

He said the conductors announced the change in service by morning and emails were sent to the riders. Notices were also given on social media.

“We know there’s a general sense of disappointment, but we’re doing what we can as a responsible agency to keep this track in good repair condition,” Gonzales said.

There are plans to “rewrap” large boulders in the coming days, in an effort to protect the sea side of the tracks.

Track movement by sea force reflects the vulnerability of beach infrastructure as the sea inches closer to the coast, with sand erosion no longer offering a buffer against the ocean.

While the tracks remain dry when ocean activity moderates, if a large swell and high tides happen to combine, as they did this week, the water begins to push over the tracks more often, especially in the recent past. With the rapid disappearance of sand over the years.

Railroad stabilization underway on OC Coast, while passengers scramble to find rides
On September 15, 2021, railroad tracks in South San Clemente were rippled, the same day Metrolink and Amtrak announced it would stop service for repairs following the movement of the track. (Photo courtesy of Tony Prince)

The Orange County Transportation Authority, along with CalTrans District 12, completed a study earlier this year to assess how future climate change will affect the Orange County Rail Corridor.

“Sea level rise and relevant coastal hazards, including storm surge and shoreline erosion, pose a threat to the approximately 7-mile coastal rail corridor in Orange County,” the OCTA study said.

Slope failure and erosion were also addressed, with the study looking at changing rainfall patterns as well as changing coastal storm patterns that can affect erosion and increase the likelihood of slopes becoming unstable.

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Along the Coastal Rail Corridor, there are dangers of various bluff failures and erosion on the ground portion of the tracks and shoreline erosion along the coastline, the study said.

The report said the combination of sea level rise, erosion and flooding could threaten not only railroads and embankments, but also associated infrastructure, such as bridges, culverts and stations.

The most exposed sections of the tracks are the southernmost part of Orange County, as well as Mariposa Promontory, the report said. This is the same section where the landslide occurred in late 2019 and closed the footbridge for months.

OCTA studied options for protecting vulnerable areas, including adding different levels of sea wall and rocky riprap and boulders that could serve as barriers to the ocean. This is the current plan as an emergency measure to protect the tracks.

California Coastal Commission spokesman Noaki Schwartz said two emergency railroad revitalization projects are pending in San Clemente. One is smaller in North Beach, where a slope failure caused boulders to collapse on the beach.

The second is for the southern end of the city, the location where movement was detected this week, and calls for an additional 1,000-foot-long layer of rocks by a 20-foot-wide layer of rocks on the seafront of the tracks. .

Nation World News Desk
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