Barrier wall under construction to protect San Clemente rail line from landslides

David González Image
Wednesday, February 28, 2024
Barrier wall will protect San Clemente tracks from landslides
A catchment wall is being built along a stretch of rail line in San Clemente plagued by a sliding hillside.

SAN CLEMENTE, Calif. (KABC) -- A catchment wall is being built along a stretch of rail line in San Clemente plagued by a sliding hillside.

Metrolink maintains and operates the track on behalf of the Orange County Transportation Authority.

The section of track has been closed to passenger rail traffic since January, when rain storms led to mud and hillside debris falling down and covering the tracks. Freight service has been allowed on a limited basis at night with frequent inspections of the track.

"This area is so incredibly narrow in terms of the workspace and the equipment that needs to be brought in, it's very, very challenging," said Metrolink spokesperson Scott Johnson.

Heavy machinery has been brought in and the wall will begin to take shape soon.

"These two large drilling rigs drill down approximately 30 to 35 feet," Johnson said. "After that, these large steel beams are then placed along that corridor."

The barrier wall will be about 160 feet long and up to 15 feet tall.

Its goal is to protect the track from falling dirt and debris from the slope that continues to move.

"That right of way is relatively narrow," Johnson said. "Only about 100 feet wide. The hillside is all privately owned so we are unable to really do anything to stabilize the hillside. Not only at Mariposa Beach but along the entire San Clemente bluff."

San Clemente councilmember Chris Duncan said the barrier wall just puts a Band-Aid on a bigger issue that needs to be addressed.

"The only way to stabilize the hillside is to build a tieback wall just like we did at Casa Romantica. So we're hoping that that'll be the next step, but that's going to be up to the private landowners and the Orange County Transportation Authority," Duncan said.

He wants to see federal state and local partners work together so passenger rail service can resume and the Mariposa Beach trail bridge can reopen.

"We do have to see how does this barrier wall affect the type of construction we could do and how we can rebuild the bridge," Duncan said. "We're going to have to wait to see how that develops first. We have seen some plans. But I think it's months not years."

Metrolink hopes to have the wall completed by mid-March.

Only then will passenger rail service be allowed to resume.