With new storm on the way, crews trying to stabilize sliding slope in San Clemente

David González Image
Wednesday, January 31, 2024
As more rain looms, crews trying to fix sliding slope in San Clemente
Since last week's landslide, the San Clemente slope continues to shift and slip. Crews are scrambling to make repairs before more rain arrives.

SAN CLEMENTE, Calif. (KABC) -- With a heavy storm on the way, crews are working to stabilize a crumbling hillside in San Clemente that has already disrupted rail service in the area.

Last week a landslide dumped boulders and other debris onto the train tracks and damaged the Mariposa Trail Bridge just north of the San Clemente pier. Amtrak and Metrolink passenger rail service through the area was indefinitely suspended as a result.

The Mariposa bridge remains blocked off from the public with a fence as the cleanup and stabilization work proceeds.

The Orange County Transportation Authority, which own the rail line, is working with Metrolink to secure the slope and clear the tracks.

Metrolink spokesperson Scott Johnson said grading and excavating efforts are underway but they're facing challenges.

As a new round of rain approaches, Johnson said crews are laying down tarps to prevent moisture from soaking the ground.

"The initial step is to shore up that dirt," Johnson said. "In addition to that to ensure that all the efforts that have taken place thus far isn't washed away by the impending rains."

However, San Clemente Mayor Victor Cabral said the land has not stopped moving since last week's landslide.

"It's slipped every day this week and this weekend, an inch, half inch, at times it's still unstable," Cabral said. "Most of the slide is on private property and that's one of the unfortunate things; trying to get the private property owners to - and we're working with them - protect their hillside."

Scott added, "It's the soil above the right-of-way that is falling down onto the tracks."

For the fifth time in the past three years passenger rail service has been halted through San Clemente because of shifting slopes.

Mayor Cabral said preventing Metrolink and Amtrak trains from traveling through the impact hillside is necessary until the area is secured.

Authorities have allowed limited freight service through the area overnight. BNSF is being allowed to operate freight trains through the area at 10 mph between 9 p.m. Tuesday and 3 a.m. Wednesday. The track is inspected before and after each train passes.

In an update issued Tuesday, officials with OCTA and Metrolink said it is still unknown when passenger service might resume.

Johnson says people are encouraged to use Metrolink trains as far south as the Laguna Niguel/Mission Viejo station on weekdays and as far south as San Juan Capistrano on the weekends.