Orange County Transportation Authority moving forward study to keep coastal trains operating safely

Aug. 16, 2023
The authority selected HDR to conduct Phase 1 of a two-phase study looking at ways to protect the coastal rail line between Dana Point and San Clemente, Calif.

The Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA) is moving forward with its two-phased plan to study threats and solutions to keep coastal trains operating safely. OCTA selected HDR Engineering Inc. to lead the South Coast Rail Infrastructure Feasibility Study and Alternative Concepts Analysis, which is Phase 1 of a study, will focus on the seven-mile rail corridor between Dana Point and San Clemente, Calif.

The section of the coastal rail corridor to be studied has experienced two significant landslides in the past year that forced suspension of passenger rail service. The line connects passengers, freight and military assets from San Diego County to Orange County and farther north. The Cyprus Shore slide emergency fix included the installation of 220 ground anchors, securing two rows of 110 grade beams and construction of a grade-beam wall that included 1,000 cubic yards of shotcrete. Crews recently completed hydroseeding the slope covering the grade-beam wall.

A few miles north of the Cyprus Shore location, a second landslide below San Clemente’s Casa Romantica Cultural Center and Gardens caused another rail service suspension at the end of April and only about 10 days after trains began using the line following repairs to the Cyprus Shore location. Metrolink, its contractors and OCTA worked to build a temporary barrier wall to protect the rail line while the city of San Clemente works on a more permanent solution for the slope. Trains began operating on the line on July 17.

Amid the emergency repairs at the Cyprus Shore location, OCTA developed a plan for a two-phase study to assess long-term solutions to preserve rail service along the corridor. HDR will be tasked with four directives with the $2 million Phase 1 study, including:

  • Developing options to protect coastal rail infrastructure in its current location
  • Gaining a more detailed understanding of climate effects on the rail line
  • Identifying potential solutions for beach erosion
  • Consulting with key stakeholders and agencies each step of the way

OCTA says the study would also identify costs associated with improvements needed along the rail corridor to ensure ongoing rail operations.

Longer-term options for the corridor would be examined in a second phase study. The scope of the Phase 2 study includes:

  • Partnering with LOSSAN, state and federal agencies
  • Developing options for protecting or potentially moving the rail line
  • Creating an action plan
  • Consulting and engaging residents and key stakeholders throughout the process

“We’ve seen just how important this rail line is – especially with the challenges of the last year – to the thousands of passengers and the business owners and others who rely on steady train service,” said OCTA Chairman and Mayor of Yorba Linda Gene Hernandez. “Now that we’ve dealt with the emergencies that forced the track to temporarily close, we will continue to work with urgency with all our partners to ensure our tracks can remain open and reliable.”

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.