Bulldozer on tracks
A bulldozer works on the tracks in San Clemente. Courtesy LOSSAN agency

The Orange County Transportation Authority declared a state of emergency Tuesday over unstable railroad tracks through San Clemente, while the state freed $6 million for repairs that will take 30 to 45 days.

Amtrak and MetroLink train service to San Diego County has been suspended since Sept. 30, after the storm surge from Tropical Storm Kay caused movement of the track north of Trestles Beach.

Connecting bus service has been instituted for Amtrak passengers, while BNSF freight trains continue to run through the area, though at slower speed. COASTER commuter trains are not affected.

“This quick action by our board and the state will allow us to move forward with a more effective interim solution to prevent the tracks from moving and to safely restore rail service through this vital corridor,” said OCTA Chairman Mark A. Murphy, who is also the Mayor of Orange.

OCTA owns the railroad right-of-way between Fullerton and the San Diego County border.

The track work involves driving large metal anchors into 700 feet of the slope adjacent to the railroad track to prevent it from pushing the track further toward the ocean. Until the emergency work on the slope begins, large boulders are being placed along the track to temporarily secure it.

“We all understand the urgency of this issue and are working around the clock with all of our partners, including at Metrolink, Amtrak Pacific Surfliner, the state and our elected leaders to complete this work as efficiently as possible, always prioritizing safety,” said OCTA CEO Darrell E. Johnson.

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.