Train service through San Clemente will remain shut down through February as rail line repairs begin

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Saturday, November 19, 2022
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The Orange County Transportation Authority said it's too risky to continue passenger rail service through that area because of shore erosion on one side and an unstable hillside on the other.

SAN CLEMENTE, Calif. (KABC) -- Since late September, people traveling to and from San Diego on Amtrak have had to make a pit stop in Irvine.

At the train station, riders heading southbound get off the train. They jump onto buses that then take them to the San Diego border.

There, they transfer onto another train and continue to their final destination. Angela Russo makes the trek often.

"They're explaining very well," she said. "They're getting you from point A to point B safely and timely."

People traveling northbound like Liz Villarial experience the same journey.

"Well it wasn't really that bad, you know? From San Diego. And then we had to stop and then we got on the bus and everybody was polite and they're nice, clean," she said.

Amtrak and Metrolink trains have been forced to stop running trains through San Clemente.

"With rail service shut down right now, we want to make sure that this work is done as quickly as possible," said Eric Carpenter, spokesperson for Orange County Transportation Authority.

He said OCTA owns the right-of-way and said it's too risky to continue passenger rail service through that area because of shore erosion on one side and an unstable hillside on the other.

He said in the last 14 months, the rail line has been pushed about 28 inches closer to the ocean.

Carpenter said emergency work started this week on the track and slope.

"We've worked so far to place large boulders known as riprock on one side, on the coastal side, and what we're doing now is working along 700 feet of beach in San Clemente to make sure that the hillside is stabilized and won't affect the track," Carpenter said.

However, he said construction will have keep the popular route shut down through early February.

"I would rather be on a safe track then a track that was expedited and fall back into the ocean within another two years," said Russo.

Also, Carpenter said halfway through this project, they plan to reanalyze the progress made and if it's safe to do so, they plan to reopen it before the February target date.