OCTA, Metrolink, Amtrak suspend rail service due to threat of slope movement at second San Clemente location

May 1, 2023
The slope north of San Clemente Pier dropped 20 feet last week and was found to have moved another five to 10 feet closer to tracks the morning of April 28, which prompted a halt to rail service.

All passenger and freight train traffic has been suspended following movement of a slope in San Clemente, Calif., late last week. This is the second slope with stabilization challenge that has impacted train movements in the region and is unrelated to work the Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA) is currently performing to stabilize San Clemente slope issues at a location a few miles south of the current slope slide.

The OCTA reports suspension of rail service is “out of an abundance of caution because of debris falling from the slope.”

The city of San Clemente determined the slope dropped approximately 20 feet on April 27 following several days of minor earth movement. Metrolink, in consultation with the LOSSAN Rail Corridor Agency and OCTA, made the decision to close the track just after 1 p.m. April 27. As of April 28, the city of San Clemente reported the slope remained unstable and was still moving. The soil at the bottom of the slope had moved five to 10 feet closer to the tracks but had not yet reached the tracks.

Weekday Metrolink service will only operate as far south as the Laguna Niguel/Mission Viejo Station while weekend service will only operate as far south as San Juan Capistrano until further notice. LOSSAN Rail Corridor Agency, which operates Amtrak’s Pacific Surfliner service, says it continues to work with its partner agencies to secure buses to transport passengers around the closure. Pacific Surfliner service will operate between Oceanside and San Diego, with buses providing connections to trains in Irvine.

The location of this closure is approximately two miles north of where OCTA is completing construction work near the Cyprus Shore Homeowners Association in San Clemente. Full passenger rail service had returned to the tracks on April 17 after OCTA had completed emergency repairs to the area to stop slope movement and stabilize tracks.

A series of storm surge events about a year apart caused the slope in this location to become unstable. OCTA and its contractor, Condon-Johnson & Associations Inc., installed tiebacks and ground anchors to halt the slope movement, which will allow full rail service to resume.

The stabilization and restoration efforts of the new slope movement north of the San Clemente Pier will be managed by the city of San Clemente. The city says preliminary discussions to correct the issue are underway, and the consulting firm of LGC has completed the installation of an inclinometer, which began recording baseline measurements April 28.

About the Author

Mischa Wanek-Libman | Editor in Chief

Mischa Wanek-Libman serves as editor in chief of Mass Transit magazine. She is responsible for developing and maintaining the magazine’s editorial direction and is based in the western suburbs of Chicago.

Wanek-Libman has spent more than 20 years covering transportation issues including construction projects and engineering challenges for various commuter railroads and transit agencies. She has been recognized for editorial excellence through her individual work, as well as for collaborative content. 

She is an active member of the American Public Transportation Association's Marketing and Communications Committee and serves as a Board Observer on the National Railroad Construction and Maintenance Association (NRC) Board of Directors.  

She is a graduate of Drake University, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism and Mass Communication with a major in magazine journalism and a minor in business management.