Southern California Train Tracks Keep Eroding, Emergency Repairs Will Take Months, Authorities Announce

Perhaps 100-foot steel anchors in the bedrock will help.
ROBYN BECK / Contributor via Getty
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Passenger rail service along the second-busiest Amtrak corridor in the country will likely remain disrupted for the rest of the year as authorities conduct emergency repairs to an eroded track bed in Southern California, according to a press release issued by the Orange County Transportation Authority which owns the tracks.


Train service by Amtrak along the Surfliner route from San Diego to Los Angeles was severely impacted earlier this month when a portion of the route in San Clemente was abruptly closed due to the human impact on coastal erosion. The commuter rail system, Metrolink, also cannot run trains along that track. Last year, the same stretch of track was shut down for two weeks for emergency repairs. This time, the work will be more extensive and take 60 to 90 days, according to OCTA. 

“We’re in uncharted territory with this emergency stabilization work and, as we’ve said all along, passenger safety is what guides all of our actions,” said OCTA Chairman Mark A. Murphy, also the Mayor of Orange, in the press release. “We want this work to get done as soon as possible but we first need to make sure it’s done right and the slope is secure.”

The work will require drilling 100-foot long steel anchors into the bedrock of the slope next to the railroad track to prevent the track from falling further towards the ocean. According to OCTA, the track has moved 28 inches over the last 13 months due to storm surges and sand erosion. Both higher storm surges and increased sand erosion can be attributed to the human impact on development in the area and climate change. The work is expected to cost about $12 million but is subject to change in scope.

It is not clear if the 100-foot steel anchors will be enough to prevent these closures from being an annual occurrence. OCTA says it “continues to review long-term options for protecting the rail line in this area and throughout the coastal region.”