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San Clemente Track Closure

Current Update


Tuesday, February 20, 2024

The privately owned slope above the rail line in San Clemente at Mariposa Point continued to creep into the rail right of way as rain doused the region on Tuesday, enough that freight rail trips were halted through the area overnight.

The OCTA and Metrolink team remained on site to secure plastic tarping above the track in the emergency work area. Even with the tarping, some rain continues to get into the already saturated slope.

Movement of the slope accelerated today from 1 to 2 inches before the rain to about 10 to 12 inches, which was in the range expected with the heavy rain. Crews continued to shovel away soil and debris in the rail right of way.

With additional rain forecast for tonight and Wednesday, crews will continue to monitor for slope movement and secure the tarps. The track remains stable and BNSF freight trains are scheduled to continue to run overnight at reduced speed.

As mentioned on Friday, the California Transportation Commission (CTC) approved an additional $7.2 million to support track protection, including for construction of a catchment wall and other required mitigation. With the allocation, Metrolink signed a contract the same day to construct the wall.

The project team held its first pre-construction meeting with the contractor to begin mobilizing and planning for the start of construction. The team is still determining the final specifications for the wall, which is intended to catch any soil or debris from falling into the rail right of way.

The tentative plan calls for construction activities to begin as soon as next week, weather permitting. OCTA will work on a timeline for safely resuming limited passenger rail service as soon as possible. A more accurate construction timeline should be developed once the current storms pass and the team can re-evaluate site conditions.

The OCTA team also continues to monitor the rain and potential flooding throughout the county and to respond accordingly with any necessary bus detours.

Passengers are being directed to www.metrolinktrains.com and www.pacificsurfliner.com/alerts for service updates.

plastic tarping

plastic tarping

Previous Updates

The California Transportation Commission (CTC) awarded $7.2 million to the Orange County Transportation Authority for a construction project to help restore a critical link in Southern California’s rail network.

The new funding from the state – in response to a request sent by OCTA CEO Darrell E. Johnson earlier this week – allows the OCTA and Metrolink project team to move forward on constructing a catchment wall at Mariposa Point in San Clemente, as well as other mitigation to protect the track from soil and debris from a privately owned slope that slid into the rail right of way in late January.

The $7.2 million is in addition to a previous award from the state of $2 million for cleanup and pre-construction activities at the site. That money was made available when Caltrans declared an official emergency.

With this new emergency allocation, Metrolink signed a design-build contract with Condon-Johnson & Associates, a construction firm that has worked with OCTA on previous emergency rail protection efforts in San Clemente.

As details of the contract are finalized, OCTA, Metrolink and the LOSSAN Rail Agency, which manages Amtrak’s Pacific Surfliner service, will work on a timeline for safely resuming limited passenger rail service as soon as possible. That timeline has not been determined at this point. The safety of passengers will continue to guide that decision.

Out at the Mariposa Point site, with the project team’s work to remove some additional soil and debris that fell into the rail right of way, BNSF has resumed running freight trains overnight at reduced speed. Those overnight freight trips are expected to continue as the project team closely monitors the slope to ensure safety.

The OCTA and Metrolink project team, which has been working to replace the plastic tarps on the site to protect the slope as much as possible from further saturation, will continue to inspect the slope and monitor for any additional slope movement. More rain is expected late in the weekend and into next week.

Unfortunately, it is becoming increasingly common for California’s transportation infrastructure to suffer storm-related damage, forcing closures and delays. Most recently, indefinite nightly closures were announced for a six-mile stretch of PCH north of Malibu where storm damage sheared off stretches of the roadway.

Passengers are being directed to www.metrolinktrains.com and www.pacificsurfliner.com/alerts for service updates.

tarps

tarps

The OCTA and Metrolink project team started the process of removing some additional soil and debris from the bottom of the privately owned slope above the rail line at Mariposa Point in San Clemente.

With that work, the team expects to establish sufficient clearance that would allow BNSF to resume running freight trains overnight at reduced speeds of no more than 10 mph.

Because the weather forecast calls for heavy rain beginning again as soon as this weekend, the OCTA and Metrolink project team are replacing the plastic tarps to protect the slope as much as possible from further saturation. A contractor for the private property owner is doing the same on the hillside farther up.

The slope remains saturated and continues slowly moving toward the track.

Potholing for utilities and other pre-construction activities also continued in preparation for construction of the barrier wall.

OCTA also continued to work with the California Transportation Commission (CTC) to secure additional funds to pay for the construction of a barrier wall to protect the rail line. The allocation would be in addition to a previous $2 million awarded by the CTC for cleanup of the track and other pre-construction activities.

Metrolink continues to work toward awarding a contract to build a barrier wall at the site. As part of that planning, the project team hopes to safely resume limited passenger rail service as soon as possible. That timeline has not yet been determined.

Passengers are being directed to www.metrolinktrains.com and www.pacificsurfliner.com/alerts for service updates.

san clemente

slope slide

The OCTA and Metrolink project team observed that soil and debris from the privately owned slope above the rail line near Mariposa Point in San Clemente continued to move toward the track, reaching a point that triggered freight traffic to be halted.

While the movement of soil had slowed, it had crept close enough to the track that BNSF freight trains would not have sufficient track clearance to make nightly trips through the emergency work area. Freight trains had been running most nights at reduced speeds during overnight hours.

The project team was taking numerous measurements at the site this afternoon and will continue to assess slope movement. The team will also discuss the best approach to address the soil closest to the track, to allow enough room for freight trains to pass. Before beginning any additional clearing or clean-up, the team must determine whether some soil from the toe of the slope can be removed without triggering further slope movement.

Passenger service remains stopped, as well, as the safety of passengers and workers on the emergency site continues to guide every decision the team makes.

Potholing for utilities is also scheduled to resume on Tuesday. Metrolink and OCTA are reviewing the proposal received on Friday to construct a barrier wall, and the goal is to be able to award a contract this week. At that point, the goal is to establish a timeline for safely resuming at least some passenger rail service.

Passengers are being directed to www.metrolinktrains.com and www.pacificsurfliner.com/alerts for service updates.

slope slide

slope slide

Today, the OCTA and Metrolink project team witnessed up to 12 inches of movement of soil and debris from the privately owned slope above the track seeping further into the rail right-of-way. The track remains stable.

BNSF has been updated and is scheduled to again move freight trains through the area overnight at reduced speed. The team will continue to monitor slope movement and drainage and work to prepare the slope for additional storms.

Also on Friday, Metrolink received a proposal from its contractor to build a barrier wall between the slope and the track. The team is currently reviewing the proposal with the goal of awarding a contract early next week. Once the design-build contract is awarded, we will work together to explore the possibility of resuming limited passenger service as soon as possible. No timeline has been set at this point.

Potholing for utilities has already begun in anticipation of the barrier wall being built.

As previously mentioned, the California Transportation Commission (CTC) has awarded OCTA $2 million for the ongoing cleanup and pre-construction activities. Work continues toward securing additional funding for construction of the barrier wall.

Passengers are being directed to www.metrolinktrains.com and www.pacificsurfliner.com/alerts for service updates.

san clemente Feb 9, Image a

san clemente Feb 9, Image b

Thursday, February 8, 2024

The OCTA and Metrolink project team removed most of the plastic tarps covering the emergency work area, which were damaged by several days of heavy rain and wind. Some tarp coverage remained in areas still too muddy for crews to safely access.

Removing the tarps allowed the team to get a better look at the condition of the slope next to the track. The slope is saturated and shows some cracking.

Soil and debris from the privately owned slope continued to inch toward the track today, at a slower pace than the last two days. The track itself remains stable. Because of that, BNSF is scheduled to again move freight trains overnight through the area at no more than 10 mph.

The OCTA and Metrolink team will continue assessing movement of the slope and inspecting the track, as well as deciding how to prepare for additional expected rain.

Metrolink is continuing design efforts and has issued a Request for Proposal (RFP) for the construction of a barrier wall to protect the track, with the goal of determining when at least limited passenger service can safely resume through San Clemente.

Passengers are being directed to www.metrolinktrains.com and www.pacificsurfliner.com/alerts for service updates.

san clemente bluffs

debris near tracks

Even as several days of heavy rain began to let up, soil and debris from the saturated slope in San Clemente continued to inch toward the track, pushing into the rail right of way near Mariposa Point (Milepost 204.2).

While the movement of the slope didn’t accelerate at the rapid rate initially projected the previous night, it did reach into the right of way near the track on Wednesday. The track itself remains stable.

BNSF is aware of the ongoing movement of the soil from the private-property hillside. But with confirmation of an operating rail, BNSF was scheduled to move freight through the area overnight again. Inspections of the track and confirmation that it is safe to proceed will occur before and after each freight train passes.

The OCTA and Metrolink team will continue to assess movement of the slope and inspect the track. The team also plans to remove the plastic tarps damaged by the rain and wind to get a better look at the condition of the slope and prepare for additional rain later this week.

While the emergency work proceeds, the California Transportation Commission (CTC) finalized authorization of OCTA’s $2 million request for debris removal and other pre-construction services, which the team will utilize to continue cleanup once the storms pass.

OCTA and Metrolink also continue to pursue the option of building a barrier wall to protect the track and work toward determining when at least limited passenger service can safely resume through San Clemente.

Passengers are being directed to www.metrolinktrains.com and www.pacificsurfliner.com/alerts for service updates.

san clemente tracks

san clemente hillside

With the exceptionally heavy rain today on top of yesterday’s rain, the Mariposa Point slope continues to move toward the track at an accelerated rate.

Project engineers projected that soil and debris from the Mariposa Point slide, at Milepost 204.2, could reach into the rail right of way by late Tuesday.

Because of the threat of soil and debris reaching the track, BNSF won’t run freight trains through the area Tuesday night. Freight trains had run at 10 mph during overnight hours for the past several nights. Passenger service had already been halted since the initial Jan. 24 slide on the private-property slope above the track.

The OCTA and Metrolink team will reassess the slope movement and inspect the track again on Wednesday morning.

OCTA, working with Metrolink, will also continue pursuing the option of building a barrier wall to protect the track and work toward determining when at least limited passenger service can safely resume through San Clemente.

Passengers are being directed to www.metrolinktrains.com and www.pacificsurfliner.com/alerts for service updates.

eroding bluffs

With the exceptionally heavy rain overnight Sunday and throughout Monday, there has been additional, accelerated movement of the slope next to the track, according to sensors and a camera installed over the weekend. However, the track structure remains stable.

Additional rain is predicted Monday night and Tuesday. Crews will remain on site to monitor and inspect the slope for movement and make adjustments to tarps and drainage, as needed.

BNSF plans to continue running freight trains at reduced speeds during overnight hours. Passenger service remains stopped.

Regarding funding, the California Transportation Commission (CTC) is expected to finalize authorization of OCTA’s $2 million request to support the debris removal and other pre-construction services. OCTA very much appreciates the state’s quick response and ongoing support.

The OCTA and Metrolink project team continues to pursue building a barrier wall to protect the track from additional slope debris. Construction would not begin until after the storms pass and the work site is deemed safe. The goal remains to be able to safely restore at least limited passenger rail service as soon as possible.

OCTA continues to work with partners to notify passengers and the public of the latest information. Passengers are being directed to www.metrolinktrains.com and www.pacificsurfliner.com/alerts for the updates.

Here is the latest on OCTA’s response to the emergency work in the City of San Clemente (City) at Mariposa Point, Milepost 204.2, as this weekend’s storm continues with heavier rain expected this week.

There has been no significant additional land movement at the emergency site near Mariposa Point. The precautionary measures taken by the OCTA and Metrolink crew, including placing plastic tarps and improving drainage from the slope, are helping protect the site. Heavier rain is expected tonight (Sunday) and Monday.

Crews will remain on site to monitor and inspect the slope for movement, and to adjust tarps and ensure proper drainage in the heavy wind and rain.

BNSF will be allowed to continue running trains at 10 mph during overnight hours.

On Monday, OCTA will continue to work with the state on the request for an initial $2 million from the California Transportation Commission (CTC) to support the debris removal and other pre-construction services.

Additionally, OCTA will continue working quickly with Metrolink and our partners to pursue building a barrier wall, as all partners agreed upon on Friday, to protect the track from additional slope debris. The goal is to be able to safely restore at least some passenger rail service as soon as possible, though no timeline has been determined at this point.

In addition to social media and station announcements, passengers are being directed to www.metrolinktrains.com and www.pacificsurfliner.com/alerts.

OCTA and Metrolink today announced that the project team will move forward with plans to build a barrier wall to protect tracks from sliding land in San Clemente near the Mariposa pedestrian bridge.

The OCTA and Metrolink decision to build a barrier wall – which comes a day after the State declared an official emergency – was made in consultation with the California State Transportation Agency (CalSTA), BNSF, and the LOSSAN Rail Corridor Agency, which operates the popular Amtrak Pacific Surfliner service through the area.

The collective goal of all agencies is to protect the vital rail line and safely restore passenger rail service through San Clemente as soon as possible.

The path forward could include restoring limited passenger rail service during construction of the wall, but no timeline for letting passenger trains run again has been determined at this point. The safety of passengers, as always, will guide that decision.

BNSF will continue operating limited freight rail traffic through the area at 10 mph during overnight hours.

“I’m tremendously appreciative to all of our partnering rail agencies and, of course, to the state, for the partnership and working together to deal with the emergency and pursue a solution to restore service,” said OCTA CEO Darrell E. Johnson. “We all know how vital this rail line is for Orange County and for the region.”

Earlier in the week, in response to a letter from CEO Johnson, Caltrans declared an official emergency, clearing the way for up to $10 million in funding to address the emergency. Details on the scope of work for the barrier wall, approvals and funding still need to be finalized. But the mutual agreement on building a barrier wall provides clarity on the path forward and will help expedite the process.

“As we have faced these challenges along the San Clemente coastline, I appreciate the collaborative efforts of Metrolink, OCTA, BNSF, LOSSAN, the State of California, and local officials,” Metrolink CEO Darren Kettle said. “The hard work and expertise of the project team is truly astounding to ensure safe rail travel.”

This most recent rail closure in San Clemente is the fifth time in the last three years passenger rail service has been forced to stop because of eroding bluffs in San Clemente pushing toward the LOSSAN rail line.

OCTA is currently leading an effort to study solutions for protecting the track through about 7 miles of coastal Orange County for the next 30 years. At the same time, OCTA is working with local, state and federal partners to study longer-term solutions to protect the track for generations to come.

At the emergency site near Mariposa Point, crews continue to monitor and inspect the slope and hillside. Soil movement has slowed significantly since the Jan. 24 slide but continues.

The emergency work area and the private slope above have been covered with plastic tarps and drainage improvements have been made to try to prevent further soil movement, especially with more heavy rain expected. Crews will remain on site throughout the impending storms.

For updates on rail service, please check www.metrolinktrains.com and www.pacificsurfliner.com/alerts.

Today, in response to a letter OCTA CEO Darrell E. Johnson sent earlier in the day to Caltrans Director Tony Tavares, the State issued an official emergency declaration for the landslide threatening the rail line in the City of San Clemente near the Mariposa pedestrian bridge (Milepost 204.2).

This crucial declaration by the state will allow OCTA to access up to $10 million in immediate emergency funding toward protecting the track and safely restoring passenger service as soon as possible. I’m grateful for the state’s partnership and for recognizing what an important issue this is for regional mobility.

“I’m grateful for the State’s partnership and for recognizing what an important issue this is for regional mobility,” said OCTA CEO Johnson.

The project team is still analyzing the most appropriate way to address the slope movement and to protect our track. Though minimal, hillside movement continues to be recorded and, with the ongoing heavy rain, there is still no definitive timetable for passenger rail service to resume at this point.

Fortunately, out at the site of the emergency work, despite the substantial rain throughout the day, the project team observed that the placement of plastic tarps on the slope and the drainage improvements made all performed as intended. Even with the heavy rain, the team is still observing that the soil movement has slowed.

Because of that progress, BNSF will once again be allowed to operate freight through the area at 10 mph between 9 tonight and 3 a.m. Friday morning.

We continue to work with our partners to notify passengers and the public of the latest information. In addition to social media and station announcements, passengers are being directed to www.metrolinktrains.com and www.pacificsurfliner.com/alerts for the updates.

Today, weather-proofing continued on the slope above the rail line in San Clemente with the private property owners’ contractor placing plastic on the soil above the work area. The project team helped integrate the two efforts (please see images below). The project team has completed all the initial grading and excavating of soil, while also restoring the culvert system on the hillside to allow water to effectively flow from the hillside underneath the track and to the ocean.

Though minimal, hillside movement continues to be recorded and with the impending rain, there is still no definitive timetable for passenger rail service to resume.

At the same time, state, county and local officials, along with OCTA and Metrolink personnel, are preparing for potential heavy rains, flooding and power outages from strong atmospheric river systems, following Governor Newsom’s move Tuesday to activate California’s Emergency Operations Center. State officials are warning that the two impending back-to-back storms may be only the beginning of a strong, wet weather pattern that could linger for up to two weeks.

The first of the storms, both products of vast airborne currents of dense moisture called atmospheric rivers, is expected to sweep over the Southern California coast on Thursday. The second one, forecast to arrive late Sunday, is anticipated to hit Southern California even harder.

Throughout the storms, personnel will be on site to monitor and inspect the hillside. With these steps, BNSF will once again be allowed to operate freight through the area at 10 mph between 9 p.m. tonight and 3 a.m. tomorrow morning.

We continue to work with our partners to notify passengers and the public of the latest information. In addition to social media and station announcements, passengers are being directed to www.metrolinktrains.com and www.pacificsurfliner.com/alerts for the updates.

Jan 31 image 1

Jan 31 image 2

OCTA and Metrolink teams continued to work on the hillside above the City of San Clemente-owned Mariposa Pedestrian Bridge which sits immediate next to and on OCTA railroad right-of-way.

The hillside is continuing to move but has slowed significantly. Last Thursday two sections of the bridge, each weighing approximately 24,000 pounds were removed, which has allowed the project team access to the bluff to stabilize the hillside and create efficient water drainage. As a part of that effort, heavy construction equipment, including five excavators, a loader, a hi-rail dump truck, and a grapple truck were brought in using a flatbed rail car. There is no drivable pedestrian access to the work site.

There is ongoing observation of drainage and groundwater flow is being monitored as the topography of the area has changed due to the landslide itself. Today, the project team placed additional pipes and ballast to integrate with the existing culvert system to further improve water drainage from the saturated hillside. In addition to continuing the grading and excavation, work was performed to reestablish a culvert inlet on the inland side of the track that was covered by landslide debris. In order to keep the culvert functioning, approximately 30 tons of riprap was placed to ensure proper water drainage.

With these efforts today, BNSF will once again be allowed to operate freight through the area at 10 mph between 9 p.m. tonight and 3 a.m. tomorrow morning. Inspections of the track and a confirmation that it is safe to proceed will occur before and after each freight train passes. There is still no definitive timetable for passenger rail service to resume.

In preparation for the impeding rains, a portion of the slope has been covered with visqueen plastic to minimize surface water infiltration. Tomorrow, it is expected the private property owner’s contractor will also place plastic on the soil above the Metrolink/OCTA work area. Metrolink’s track department and project team will help facilitate and integrate the efforts.

We continue to work with our partners to notify passengers and the public of the latest information. In addition to social media and station announcements, passengers are being directed to www.metrolinktrains.com and www.pacificsurfliner.com/alerts for the updates.

san clemente track closure

Despite the extensive efforts of Metrolink’s track department, along with the grading & excavating contractor, significant soil movement continues on the hillside above the San Clemente right of way near the Mariposa Pedestrian Bridge.

The construction and project teams, including geological technicians, resumed grading and excavating efforts this morning at 6:30 a.m. in an effort to stabilize the hillside slope. At this point, there is still no definitive timeline as to when train movement can safely resume through the area.

Today, Metrolink service resumes only operating as far south as the Laguna Niguel/Mission Viejo Station after providing service to and from San Juan Capistrano on Saturday and Sunday.

For real-time service updates, please visit metrolinktrains.com. Amtrak Pacific Surfliner service is also be affected by this track closure, along with BNSF Railway freight service.

Jan 29 image 1     Jan 29 image 2

Yesterday, Metrolink’s track department removed two sections of the Mariposa Pedestrian Bridge and transported them away from the area to gain access to the hillside slope. Metrolink’s track department, structural engineering firm and geological technicians continue to work collaboratively with OCTA and City of San Clemente officials, along with private property owners to methodically determine a course of action to remove soil and complete grading to ensure the area is safe to resume passenger rail movement.

As the analysis takes place and the project continues, there is still no set timeline as to when the tracks will reopen through the San Clemente area.

Beginning tomorrow, Saturday, January 27, weekend Orange County Line and Inland Empire-Orange County Line trains will operate to and from San Juan Capistrano.

On Monday, January 29, Metrolink weekday trains will again only operate as far south as the Laguna Niguel/Mission Viejo Station. There continues to be no alternate customer transportation to stations where Metrolink trains cannot reach.

Amtrak Pacific Surfliner train service will continue to operate as far south as San Juan Capistrano with Amtrak-owned bus connections between Irvine and San Deigo, while BNSF Railway freight service still cannot pass through area. BNSF officials are responding to the location to perform their own risk analysis.

For real-time service updates, please visit metrolinktrains.com. Amtrak Pacific Surfliner service is also be affected by this track closure, along with BNSF Railway freight service.

The tracks remain closed in south Orange County, while Metrolink train service will continue to only operate as far south as the Laguna Niguel/Mission Viejo Station with no alternate transportation to or from either San Juan Capistrano, San Clemente or Oceanside.

Late Wednesday night and into Thursday morning, staff members from Metrolink’s track department and structural engineering firm began working collaboratively with OCTA and City of San Clemente officials to assess the situation and determine initial steps of removing the debris and portions of the city-owned pedestrian bridge from the tracks and the rail right of way. There is still no definitive timeline as to when rail service will resume.

We know how disruptive this is for people who rely upon this critical transportation link between Los Angeles, Orange and San Diego counties and we will work with our partners to restore service as quickly as possible with safety of the public and our team members always guiding our decisions.

For real-time service updates, please visit metrolinktrains.com. Amtrak Pacific Surfliner service is also be affected by this track closure, along with BNSF Railway freight service.

Today at 4:26 p.m., it was reported that debris from the hillside slope along the Mariposa Trail Bridge in San Clemente had fallen onto the right of way and railroad tracks. As a result, all rail movement has been stopped. The area being affected is located approximately one-half mile north of Metrolink’s San Clemente Pier Station.

Southbound Orange County Line train 602 was able to reach the San Clemente Station at 5:04 p.m., while all remaining Metrolink train service will only operate as far south as the Laguna Niguel/Mission Viejo Station. Affected customers can go to @MetrolinkOC or @MetrolinkIEOC on Twitter (X) to receive an Uber voucher for up to $50 as alternate transportation toward Oceanside.

Beginning Thursday, Jan. 25, Metrolink service will only operate as far south as the Laguna Niguel/Mission Viejo Station with no alternate transportation to or from either San Juan Capistrano, San Clemente or Oceanside.

There is no set timeline as to when the tracks will reopen and rail service will resume. 

For real-time service updates, please visit metrolinktrains.com. Amtrak Pacific Surfliner service is also be affected by this track closure, along with BNSF Railway freight service.

Orange County Coastal Rail Resiliency Study

OCTA is studying rail challenges in south Orange County to assess existing and future environmental risks and issues with operations and maintenance along the Los Angeles – San Diego – San Luis Obispo (LOSSAN) Rail Corridor. The study will evaluate strategies to address these challenges.