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Amtrak to restore weekend rail service between San Diego and Orange counties

Heavy machinery next to coastal train tracks separated from the ocean by large boulders
Crews conduct hillside stabilization work in November at the site of a recurring landslide near San Clemente.
(Charlie Neuman / For the San Diego Union-Tribune)
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Amtrak passenger service between Orange and San Diego counties, which has been suspended since Sept. 30, could resume on weekends as soon as Feb. 4, a transportation official said Monday.

Passenger service has been on hold because of ongoing efforts to stabilize the site of a recurring landslide near San Clemente that was activated again by heavy rain last fall. A contractor hired by the Orange County Transportation Authority is installing 220 ground anchors drilled deep into bedrock to steady the slope.

“Construction progress to date has ceased any appreciable slope movement over the last few weeks,” said Jim Beil, the agency’s executive director of capital programs.

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“As a result of that, we’ve recommended reestablishment of the weekend passenger service,” Beil told the Orange County Transportation Authority board Monday morning. “We believe it’s now safe for Metrolink and Amtrak Pacific Surfliner to resume the weekend service.”

Metrolink trains ran as far south as Oceanside before the suspension. Currently, those trains go only as far south as the San Clemente Pier station, and OCTA officials have not said when service might resume to Oceanside.

Metrolink and Amtrak passengers were asked to check pacificsurfliner.com/alerts and metrolinktrains.com for updates on rail service and schedules.

Officials with Metrolink are still responding to recent movement detected in the railway’s foundation near San Clemente after Tropical Storm Kay.

“Even with the recent heavy rain and high tides, our approach to this project has proven effective in keeping the track from moving and we’re pleased to announce that passenger service can safely resume on weekends,” OCTA Chairman Gene Hernandez, the mayor of Yorba Linda, said in a news release Monday afternoon. “I want to thank the public for their patience and I hope everyone can understand that ensuring passenger safety guides all of our actions.”

Weather permitting, the contractor will continue working 12-hour weekday shifts, officials said. Passenger service will remain suspended on weekdays to ensure the safety of construction crews and the efficient completion of the project. Freight service, which usually runs at night, has continued across the repair site, although at reduced speeds and frequency.

“The beach area is constrained and the work requires the operation and movement of large construction equipment with personnel on and around the tracks,” said OCTA spokesman Eric Carpenter.

Two rows of ground anchors are being installed in the slope above the tracks. The top row has been completed; work on the second row has begun and should be completed by mid-March. After that, the site will be regraded, cleaned up and closed out.

North County Transit District continues to operate its Coaster commuter line between San Diego and Oceanside. Amtrak also makes runs between those two cities, and offers a “bus bridge” link between Oceanside and the Amtrak station at Irvine in Orange County that allows passengers to take trains farther north.

The seaside route is the only rail connection between San Diego and Los Angeles, and the rest of the United States.

The segment is part of the LOSSAN corridor between San Diego, Los Angeles and San Luis Obispo, which is the second-busiest passenger train route in the United States, surpassed only by the Northeast Corridor between Washington and Boston.


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