Emergency Del Mar bluff work finished

Bluff repairs were underway March 19 on the coastal bluffs below the train tracks in Del Mar.
(Jarrod Valliere / The San Diego Union-Tribune)

A railroad service suspension planned for this weekend between Solana Beach and San Diego has been cancelled after the completion of the current phase of emergency repairs to the bluffs in Del Mar.

Train traffic was halted over four previous weekends in March and April for work crews to install 18 concrete-and-steel columns called “soldier piles.” The columns were sunk up to 60 feet deep into the upper bluffs and connected to tieback anchors into the cliffs for reinforcement, according to the San Diego Association of Governments.

Additional repairs will be completed later this spring and summer along the face of the slope on the upper bluffs, and a new seawall will be installed on the beach below the bluffs just south of Fourth Street in Del Mar, SANDAG said. Work is expected to be finished by the end of the summer.

The Feb. 28 bluff collapse briefly halted trains until inspections determined traffic could resume at reduced speeds until the repairs were completed. Much of the work had been planned as part of the next phase of ongoing bluff stabilization projects, which had been scheduled to start in 2023.

The failure occurred in what was once a small canyon or ravine, filled with a relatively soft material held back by a retaining wall built in 1910. That wall that collapsed and will be replaced by the new, 288-foot-long seawall, SANDAG officials said.

Regional transportation officials say the cost of this year’s bluff repairs will be about $10.5 million.

The tracks on the Del Mar bluffs are the only link in the coastal rail corridor that stretches from San Diego to Los Angeles and San Luis Obispo.

About 2.8 million intercity passengers and 4.4 million commuter rail passengers used the so-called LOSSAN corridor annually before COVID-19 travel restrictions began last year, according to SANDAG. The route also carries $1 billion worth of freight annually, much of it into and out of the Port of San Diego.

About 50 trains operate each weekday on the 60-mile segment south of Oceanside.

—Phil Diehl is a reporter for The San Diego Union-Tribune