San Clemente slope slide causing rail service problems again

June 15, 2023
The slope below the Casa Romantica Cultural Center experienced a significant slide in early June that has stopped passenger rail service indefinitely.

A temporary barrier wall is being considered by Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA) as a possible solution for an unstable slope that has halted passenger rail traffic in San Clemente, Calif. The slope north of San Clemente Pier and below the Casa Romantica Cultural Center experienced a slide on June 5 that sent debris, dirt and a tree into the area near the OCTA-owned right of way.

The early June slide occurred just 10 days after the rail line opened to passenger rail traffic on May 27 following slope movement at the end of April. While freight trains are operating on the track at 10 mph, OCTA, Metrolink and LOSSAN Rail Corridor Agency have indefinitely stopped passenger trains out of an abundance of caution.

On June 12, OCTA declared an emergency that authorizes CEO Darrell E. Johnson to take the necessary actions to protect the track below the sliding hillside.

“As always, passenger safety will guide every action we take,” OCTA CEO Johnson said. “We understand how difficult this closure is for the people who rely on rail service through San Clemente, and we will work hard to get service running again safely.”

Temporary barrier wall

The city of San Clemente is leading efforts to determine the cause of the slide and will be responsible for stabilizing the hillside above the track. The city has not provided a detailed timeline but notes the effort will take several weeks.

Metrolink and OCTA will develop and implement protective measures on the rail line below the slope that will allow the line to reopen for passenger rail traffic. The decision on when to reopen the line to passenger service will be made by OCTA, Metrolink and the LOSSAN Rail Corridor Agency.

OCTA says one likely effort will include the design and construction of a temporary barrier wall at the bottom of the slope, within the rail right of way owned by the authority. The purpose of the temporary wall would be to keep any additional debris from the slide from interfering with safe passenger rail movement on the track. Metrolink is expected to hire a contractor to design and build the wall on an emergency basis to speed up construction. Metrolink expects to hire a contractor within the next two weeks but explains the details of the wall construction project have not been determined.

OCTA says the size of the wall will be determined later with input from an engineering contractor. The rail partners will work with California Coastal Commission for emergency permitting for the temporary barrier wall.

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.