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OCTA Continues Emergency Rail Response While Pushing Ahead to Protect Long-term Service

Service remains stopped through San Clemente and no timeline set for trains to begin running again

ORANGE – The Orange County Transportation Authority, which owns the rail line that connects San Diego County to Orange County and points further north, is working with Metrolink to clear the tracks in San Clemente and safely restore passenger and freight rail service as quickly as possible. No timeline has been set for service resuming.

At the same time, OCTA continues to push ahead with efforts to protect the rail line for the next 30 years and beyond.

“We clearly understand how important this rail line is for the people who rely on it and we are committed to working with our partners, both to get it up and safely running again and to protect this rail corridor for years to come,” said OCTA Chair Tam T. Nguyen. “Throughout California, we continue to see natural threats to our transportation system and our challenge as leaders is to come together and focus on lasting solutions for future generations.”

This week’s suspension of service on the rail line is the fifth service interruption in the past three years. Once again, a vital stretch of Southern California’s rail infrastructure has been forced to close because the private property above the railroad has fallen onto the track.

Two weeks ago, that same landslide forced the City of San Clemente to close its popular Mariposa Point pedestrian bridge. That City-owned bridge – as dramatic photos have shown – is now crumbling toward the track. Work to remove it from OCTA’s rail right-of-way is underway and is the first step in determining the best course of action to safely resume service through the area.

Over the past three years, San Clemente’s eroding bluffs – on both city and private property – have repeatedly forced the closure of the rail line which has operated largely uninterrupted for more than 125 years.

Because of the recent bluff failures and impacts on the rail line from eroding city, county and state beaches, OCTA has laid out a phased approach to continue operating service with minimal interruptions.

As part of this effort, OCTA is working on two initiatives:

  • The first study – the Orange County Coastal Rail Resiliency Study – is evaluating strategies to ensure uninterrupted rail operations, including a detailed analysis of 7 miles of critical coastal track between Dana Point and San Clemente at the San Diego County line. The objective of this short- to medium-term study is to help ensure uninterrupted rail operations for the next 30 years. The first technical stakeholder meeting was held last week and a series of listening sessions are planned over the next several months with a wide variety of partners, stakeholders and the public to gather input.
  • The second study will look longer term at a potential rail line relocation along the coast to an inland alignment between San Juan Capistrano and San Onofre State Beach, spanning 11 miles. Most of the rail line in the study area is approximately 200 feet or less from the coastline in south Orange County. This rail line is vulnerable to catastrophic failure due to changing environmental conditions and coastal erosion, rendering it inoperable for extended periods. OCTA has held conversations with the state and formally requested help in developing a long-term plan, including finding necessary funding.

While these efforts are underway, OCTA, working with Metrolink as the primary rail operator, has been responding – and will continue to respond – to the city’s bluff failures and addressing them on an emergency basis to limit rail service disruptions.

Metrolink has suspended service south of the Laguna Niguel/Mission Viejo station and is advising passengers to make alternate travel arrangements until service can be restored. Pacific Surfliner is offering bus bridges between Irvine and Oceanside to get passengers around the closure.

For updates on rail service, passengers are asked to check and

For information on the developing studies, visit

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