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Local, state leaders celebrate funding to move train tracks off Del Mar bluffs

A Surfliner train by Amtrak travels along the collapsing bluffs in Del Mar in 2019.
A Surfliner train by Amtrak travels along the collapsing bluffs in Del Mar in 2019.
(John Gibbins/The San Diego Union-Tribune)

California Senate President Pro Tempore Toni G. Atkins joined local, state and federal leaders Oct. 12 in Del Mar to discuss the $300 million state investment for the realignment of the LOSSAN rail corridor.

The LOSSAN Rail Corridor Agency -- which manages the rail service -- suspended Amtrak Pacific Surfliner service in late September after consultations with geologists, geotechnical engineers and surveyors “revealed that there may be a safety concern along a portion of track in the San Clemente area,’’ according to an agency statement. It has remained suspended between Orange County and North San Diego County.

“The LOSSAN rail corridor is crucial to the San Diego region, California, and the nation,’’ said Atkins. “From the passenger trains that transport roughly eight million people per year, to the freight trains that carry an estimated $1 billion in goods each year, it plays a vital role in our state, especially considering that it also supports our national defense by providing rail access to the Pacific Fleet.

“The LOSSAN corridor is truly a lifeline, and this project is the first step in improving its stability,’’ she said.

For nearly two decades, SANDAG has worked to stabilize the bluffs as a temporary solution. In June, Atkins and other leaders secured the funding in Governor Gavin Newsom’s California budget to move the tracks off the Del Mar bluffs.

“Thanks to the tireless work of Pro Tem Atkins, the San Diego region is paving the way to realigning the LOSSAN corridor,’’ said San Diego Association of Governments Chair and Encinitas Mayor Catherine Blakespear. “Ongoing erosion along the rail line continues to show us that we cannot afford to wait any longer. With this investment from the state, SANDAG is immediately moving forward to make this rail corridor safer, faster and more reliable as a key transit, freight, and defense route for the San Diego region, state and nation.’’

Construction crews in mid-June completed emergency repairs to stabilize the Del Mar bluffs, but additional work is slated to begin next year.

The bluffs experienced a partial collapse in February 2021, and emergency repairs consisted of the installation of additional piled support columns to stabilize the train tracks in the collapse area, slope repairs, drainage improvements, bluff toe protection and revegetation planting and hydroseeding of the slope.

``The LOSSAN rail corridor is responsible for billions in economic activity every year and millions of Southern Californians rely on this route, but coastal erosion from rising sea levels and stronger storm surge is threatening all of that,’’ said Rep. Mike Levin, D-Dana Point. ``This is why I have fought to deliver federal funding to stabilize coastal bluffs.

``We’ve secured millions in federal funds for this priority in recent years, but we must do more, and I will not stop fighting for every last cent of federal funding we need to address the challenges facing the LOSSAN rail corridor,’’ he said. ``I look forward to continuing to work with SANDAG and other local stakeholders to advance this project and move the tracks off the bluffs in Del Mar once and for all.’’

Since 2003, SANDAG and North County Transit District have completed three stabilization projects along the coastal bluffs between Coast Boulevard and Torrey Pines State Beach.

The bluffs typically experience erosion of up to six inches per year on average over the last 25 years, largely due to storm water, wave action irrigation runoff and sea level rise.

The state’s $300 million investment will allow SANDAG to complete the environmental process and advance engineering work for a long-term solution while the agency continues to seek funding for construction of the realignment and other critical improvement projects along the entire corridor.

On Nov. 14, SANDAG is scheduled to provide an update on the project to the Del Mar City Council, according to a City of Del Mar newsletter.


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