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San Clemente Track Closure

 

Thursday, February 22, 2024 – Metrolink and the project team with contractor Condon-Johnson and Associates are moving forward with plans to build a catchment wall to protect the track from falling soil and debris. Construction equipment and materials are currently being mobilized and drilling for the beams that will support the catchment wall structure could begin as early as the first part of next week, weather allowing.

The final design of the catchment wall and the construction schedule are still being determined. The initial design is similar to the wall constructed last year below the nearby Casa Romantica Cultural Center and Gardens and calls for the wall to be approximately 10 to 15 feet tall, 160 feet in length, and supported by steel beams that are about 30 feet deep.

The team is monitoring and preparing for the next anticipated rainstorm, which is predicted to arrive on Monday. Crews expect to continue working in the rain, but it could delay the start of construction depending upon the amount of precipitation and the condition of the slope. The site remains heavily saturated from the previous rain system.

BNSF freight trains have been paused since Tuesday and will not run again this evening. The team will continue to assess conditions daily to determine whether freight operations can resume.

Metrolink customers are being informed that weekend Orange County Line and Inland Empire-Orange County Line trains will only operate as far south as San Juan Capistrano, while weekday service is operating as far south as the Laguna Niguel/Mission Viejo Station. This communication is taking place through social media, station electronic message boards and train conductors. For real-time service updates, please visit metrolinktrains.com or follow MetrolinkOC or MetrolinkIEOC on Twitter (X).

 

Tuesday, February 20, 2024 – With heavy rain continuing to move through the area, the project team has observed accelerated movement of the affected hillside slope. Due to this development, BNSF freight trains will not be operating this evening. The team will reassess hillside movement tomorrow to make a determination on future freight operation. 

Today, the project team also held a pre-construction meeting with the construction contractor. The team is still determining the final specifications for the wall, which is intended to catch any soil or debris and keep it from falling into the rail right of way. The tentative plan calls for construction activities to begin as soon as next week, weather permitting. A more defined construction timeline will be available once the current storm passes and the team can further evaluate site conditions.

Metrolink customers are being informed that weekday Orange County Line and Inland Empire-Orange County Line trains will only operate as far south as the Laguna Niguel/Mission Viejo Station, while weekend service will operate as far south as San Juan Capistrano. This communication is taking place through social media, station electronic message boards and train conductors. For real-time service updates, please visit metrolinktrains.com or follow MetrolinkOC or MetrolinkIEOC on Twitter (X).

 

Friday, February 16, 2024 Today, OCTA received an emergency allocation of $7.2 million dollars from the California Transportation Commission (CTC) for track protection, including a catchment wall as well as other resiliency measures and required mitigation. The allocation allowed Metrolink to enter into a contract with Condon-Johnson & Associates, Inc. to begin the design and construction of a wall. The intent of the wall is to catch falling debris from the privately-owned hillside and protect the OCTA-owned right of way.

The precise dimensions of the wall and the construction schedule will be finalized next week after the next round of rain clears.

The CTC had already approved an initial emergency allocation of $2 million dollars earlier this month to support debris removal and other preconstruction services. That allocation followed Caltrans issuing an emergency declaration that allows OCTA to access up to $10 million in emergency funding toward restoring passenger rail service through San Clemente and protecting the right of way.

Also, today at the work site, the Metrolink and OCTA project teams completed the placement of protective plastic along the hillside in coordination with the City of San Clemente and the private-property owners. The right of way and track remain stable allowing BNSF freight movement to continue between approximately 9 p.m. tonight and 4 a.m. tomorrow morning. The late-night freight trains are expected to continue as the project team closely monitors the slope and right of way to ensure safety. Metrolink’s track department also placed additional ballast to ensure the safety of the rail.

Metrolink customers are being informed that weekend Orange County Line and Inland Empire-Orange County Line trains will operate as far south as San Juan Capistrano. This communication is taking place through social media, station electronic message boards and train conductors. For real-time service updates, please visit metrolinktrains.com or follow MetrolinkOC or MetrolinkIEOC on Twitter (X).

 

Thursday, February 15, 2024 – Today, after extensive analysis and consultation, the project team removed a sufficient amount of privately-owned slope debris away from the rail right of way. That step will allow BNSF Railway to resume freight service through San Clemente. The project engineers continue to report hillside soil movement. The soil movement has been communicated to BNSF Railway officials who have accepted the risk and will operate through the area tonight at 10 mph between 9 p.m. and 4:30 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.

The project team is also coordinating with City of San Clemente officials and the private-property owners on water intrusion mitigation efforts, including the replacement of visqueen plastic on the hillside. Rain is predicted toward the end of this weekend and into the first part of next week. 

Digging to identify utilities in preparation for the construction of a barrier wall also continued today. OCTA and Metrolink are working to secure funding for a design-build barrier wall. Once the contractor is finalized, details associated with the project to establish a timeline for safely resuming passenger rail service will be determined.

Metrolink customers are being informed that weekday Orange County Line and Inland Empire-Orange County Line trains will only operate as far south as the Laguna Niguel/Mission Viejo Station, while weekend service will operate as far south as San Juan Capistrano. This communication is taking place through social media, station electronic message boards and train conductors. For real-time service updates, please visit metrolinktrains.com or follow MetrolinkOC or MetrolinkIEOC on Twitter (X).

       

 

Monday, February 12, 2024 – Today, the project team continued to observe measurable movement of soil and debris from the privately-owned slope above the tracks. Even though the movement of soil has slowed in recent days, it continues to seep into the rail right of way. The track remains stable, but because of how close the soil has inched toward the track, BNSF Railway will not be allowed to run freight trains tonight.

The Metrolink and OCTA teams this afternoon are taking multiple measurements to determine how much soil and debris would need to be removed to allow freight trains to safety pass. As part of that work and analysis, the team must determine whether removing soil from the toe of the slope would trigger further hillside movement.  

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

Digging to identify utilities is also scheduled to resume on Tuesday. Metrolink and OCTA continue to review the proposal received on Friday to design and build a barrier wall. The team is in communication with the contractor on details associated with the project to establish a timeline for safely resuming passenger rail service.

Metrolink customers are again being informed that weekday Orange County Line and Inland Empire-Orange County Line trains will only operate as far south as the Laguna Niguel/Mission Viejo Station through social media, station electronic message boards and train conductors. For real-time service updates, please visit metrolinktrains.com or follow MetrolinkOC or MetrolinkIEOC on Twitter (X).

   

 

Friday, February 9, 2024 – Today, the project team continued to clearly identify utility, water, fiber and sewer lines, in anticipation of a barrier wall being constructed to protect the right of way. The effort was challenging with the existing muddy and restrictive work site conditions, along with a small amount of rain. The project engineers continue to report soil movement on the hillside. The soil movement has been communicated to BNSF Railway officials who have accepted the risk and will operate through the area at 10 mph tonight.

Also today, in response to a Request for Proposal (RFP) issued by Metrolink earlier this week, the team received a proposal for the design and construction of a barrier wall from Condon-Johnson & Associates Inc. with the goal of resuming passenger rail service through San Clemente as quickly and safely as possible. Condon-Johnson is the same construction contractor that designed and built a barrier wall that allowed rail service to resume on July 17, 2023, after debris fell from the hillside onto the tracks beneath San Clemente’s Casa Romantica Cultural Center. Condon-Johnson also installed 220 ground anchors as part of an extensive OCTA project below the Cyprus Shore Community Association in April 2023 where slope movement also resulted in a San Clemente track closure and passenger rail service suspension.  

The project team has begun evaluating today’s proposal and will continue over the weekend to determine next steps.

Metrolink customers are being informed that, beginning tomorrow, weekend Orange County Line and Inland Empire-Orange County Line trains will operate as far south as the San Juan Capistrano Station through social media, station electronic message boards and train conductors. For real-time service updates, please visit metrolinktrains.com or follow MetrolinkOC or MetrolinkIEOC on Twitter (X).

 

Thursday, February 8, 2024 – With the most recent rains subsiding, today Metrolink’s track department and project team removed much of the plastic that had been placed last week to protect the hillside’s topsoil from water intrusion. The removal was done to be able to assess and observe the hillside. Some of the plastic was not reachable due to the muddy and steep terrain. After initial inspection and measurement, continued soil movement has been confirmed and even though soil and debris has reached the right of way, the track is safe for freight rail movement.

The project team has begun work to identify utility, water, fiber and signal lines, in anticipation of a possible design-build barrier wall or other solutions to protect the right of way. Today’s progress was slow with the muddy and challenging conditions, along with the incredibly restrictive and narrow work area.  

Inspections of the track and a confirmation that it is safe to proceed will occur before and after each freight train passes this evening. Early tomorrow morning, the project team will resume site preparations for subsequent efforts. There is still no definitive timeline as to when any construction would begin at the location nor as to when passenger rail would resume.

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Wednesday, February 7, 2024 – Fortunately, the progression of the soil and debris from the hillside did not reach the tracks last night. Though Metrolink took the precautionary step to inform BNSF Railway they could not pass the San Clemente area on Tuesday evening, following inspections and assessments this morning, the track and right of way have been deemed safe to operate train service. BNSF is aware of the ongoing movement of the private-property soil on the hillside. But with confirmation of an operating rail, BNSF is scheduled to move freight through the area tonight.

Additional rains are expected in the San Clemente area late Wednesday and into early Thursday morning. Inspections of the track and a confirmation that it is safe to proceed will occur before and after each freight train passes. Early tomorrow morning, the project team will again be on site to assess the hillside and right of way to determine next steps. Metrolink staff members continue to work on a design-build project for a barrier wall and other solutions to protect the right of way.

 

Tuesday, February 6, 2024 – Over the past 24 hours, Metrolink’s project team has measured 1.5 to 3 feet of hillside movement and is now reporting debris from the hillside nearing the right of way. At the current rate of movement, the soil and debris will reach the tracks in the next few hours. As a result, Metrolink’s operations team has informed BNSF Railway that no train movement will be possible this evening. Additional assessments and inspections will take place Wednesday to determine the status of the rail and right of way.

Metrolink staff members continue to work on a design-build project for a barrier wall and other solutions to protect the right of way.

Also yesterday, it was reported that two more sections of San Clemente’s beach trail have been closed by the city due to recent separate slope movements beyond the one causing the current track closure. The city sent out the alert Monday afternoon about the closure of the trail from the El Portal access point to the Mariposa access point. The stretch from Boca Del Canon access point to the Lasuen access point was also closed by the city yesterday.

Metrolink customers are being informed that weekday Orange County Line and Inland Empire-Orange County Line trains are only operating as far south as the Laguna Niguel/Mission Viejo Station. For real-time service updates, please visit metrolinktrains.com or follow MetrolinkOC or MetrolinkIEOC on Twitter (X).

Amtrak Pacific Surfliner service is also affected by this track closure, while Pacific Surfliner has additional service changes due to the storms hitting Southern California.

 

Monday, February 5, 2024 - Throughout the weekend and today, Metrolink’s track department and project team continues to monitor and inspect the affected hillside as the second round of heavy rains entered Southern California yesterday. The engineering team has installed an array of tilt sensors and a camera, while also measuring known points to confirm ongoing soil movement, which has increased during the past 24 hours.

After Metrolink CEO Darren Kettle directed staff on Friday to immediately begin their work to design and build a barrier wall, the team continues to explore project solutions with identified contractors and consultants. Any construction would not begin until after the storms pass and the work site is deemed safe.

Unfortunately, there is still not a clear timetable as to when passenger rail service will resume through the San Clemente area, while the additional and continued hillside soil movement has been communicated to BNSF Railway staff. BNSF officials have accepted the risk and will operate through the area at 10 mph tonight.

Metrolink customers are being informed that once again weekday Orange County Line and Inland Empire-Orange County Line trains are only operating as far south as the Laguna Niguel/Mission Viejo Station. For real-time service updates, please visit metrolinktrains.com or follow MetrolinkOC or MetrolinkIEOC on Twitter (X).

Amtrak Pacific Surfliner service is also affected by this track closure, while Pacific Surfliner has additional service changes due to the storms hitting Southern California.

 

Friday, February 2, 2024 – Today, Metrolink and OCTA announced plans to build a barrier wall to protect the tracks and right of way from sliding debris in San Clemente near the Mariposa pedestrian bridge.

Metrolink CEO Darren Kettle and OCTA CEO Darrell Johnson made the decision in consultation with the California State Transportation Agency (CalSta), BNSF and the LOSSAN Rail Corridor Agency, which operates Amtrak Pacific Surfliner service.

Metrolink staff will begin working immediately to design and build a barrier wall. The goal of all the agencies is to protect the vital OCTA-owned rail right of way and safely restore passenger rail service through San Clemente as soon as possible.

There is still no definitive timeline as to when passenger train service will resume. BNSF will continue operating limited freight through the area at 10 mph during overnight hours.

The Metrolink/OCTA project team continues to be on site to observe and assess the hillside to ensure any rail movement through the area is safe. Additional sensors are scheduled to be installed this weekend to better measure hillside movement, which does continue.

Metrolink customers continue to be informed that weekend Orange County Line and Inland Empire-Orange County Line trains will only operate as far south as San Juan Capistrano and, on Monday, trains will resume only operating as far south as the Laguna Niguel/Mission Viejo Station. For real-time service updates, please visit metrolinktrains.com or follow MetrolinkOC or MetrolinkIEOC on Twitter (X).

Amtrak Pacific Surfliner service is also affected by this track closure.

 

Thursday, February 1, 2024 – This afternoon, in response to a request from OCTA Chief Executive Officer Darrell Johnson, Caltrans Director Tony Tavares issued an emergency declaration that allows OCTA to access up to $10 million in immediate emergency funding toward restoring passenger rail service through San Clemente and protecting the right of way. The emergency declaration is specifically for the current landslide in the City of San Clemente at Mariposa Point, Milepost 204.2.

In response to the emergency declaration, Metrolink CEO Darren Kettle said, “We appreciate the prompt response from Director Tavares and the belief from Caltrans that this situation is a matter of state concern. Now, Metrolink staff members, along with OCTA personnel are working collaboratively with California Transportation Commission staff on the funding allocation to protect the OCTA-owned right of way through San Clemente. It is only through these collective partnerships that we will be able restore Metrolink service to and from Oceanside, along with Amtrak Pacific Surfliner service to and from San Diego.”

Unfortunately, despite the declaration and impending funds, there is still no definitive timeline as to when passenger rail service will resume.

Today, Metrolink's track department and project team continued to monitor and inspect the area as heavy rains entered Southern California. The team is observing soil movement at a reduced rate, while field personnel are trying to ensure the extensive storm water mitigation measures remain effective. With those efforts, 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.

Metrolink customers continue to be informed that Orange County Line and Inland Empire-Orange County Line trains are only operating as far south as the Laguna Niguel/Mission Viejo Station. For real-time service updates, please visit metrolinktrains.com or follow @MetrolinkOC or @MetrolinkIEOC on Twitter (X).

Amtrak Pacific Surfliner service is also affected by this track closure.

 

Wednesday, January 31, 2024 – Today, the private property owners’ contractor also placed plastic on the soil above the Metrolink/OCTA work area. Metrolink’s track department and project team helped integrate the two efforts. The Metrolink/OCTA 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 Metrolink and OCTA 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.

Throughout the storms, Metrolink track and signal personnel, along with project engineers 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.

Metrolink customers continue to be informed that Orange County Line and Inland Empire-Orange County Line trains are only operating as far south as the Laguna Niguel/Mission Viejo Station. For real-time service updates, please visit metrolinktrains.com or follow @MetrolinkOC or @MetrolinkIEOC on Twitter (X).

Amtrak Pacific Surfliner service is also affected by this track closure.

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Tuesday, January 30, 2024 – The Metrolink and OCTA construction and project team continued to work on the hillside above the right of way near the City of San Clemente-owned Mariposa Pedestrian Bridge. Though significantly reduced, hillside movement continues and there is still no definitive timetable for passenger rail service to resume.

Today, the project team placed additional pipes and ballast to integrate with the existing culvert system to further improve water drainage from the hillside.

This follows Metrolink’s track department removing two sections of the bridge, each weighing approximately 24,000 pounds, on Thursday. This 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 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.

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 steps, BNSF will 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.

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 that 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.

Metrolink customers continue to be informed that Orange County Line and Inland Empire-Orange County Line trains are only operating as far south as the Laguna Niguel/Mission Viejo Station. For real-time service updates, please visit metrolinktrains.com or follow @MetrolinkOC or @MetrolinkIEOC on Twitter (X).

Amtrak Pacific Surfliner service is also affected by this track closure.

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Monday, January 29, 2024 – 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 or follow @MetrolinkOC or @MetrolinkIEOC on Twitter (X).

Amtrak Pacific Surfliner service is also affected by this track closure, along with BNSF Railway freight service.

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Friday, January 26, 2024 – 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 the area. BNSF officials are responding to the location to perform their own risk analysis.

For real-time service updates, please visit metrolinktrains.com or follow @MetrolinkOC or @MetrolinkIEOC on Twitter (X).

Thursday, January 25, 2024 – 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.

Amtrak Pacific Surfliner service is also be affected by this track closure, along with BNSF Railway freight service.

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.

 

Wednesday, January 24, 2024 – 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 or follow @MetrolinkOC or @MetrolinkIEOC on Twitter (X).