California Planning $7 Million Landslide Wall at San Clemente

‘Catchment Wall’ Should Prevent Landslide From Affecting Rail Tracks Below
San Clemente, California landslide
Tarps cover the site of the landslide in San Clemente, Calif., on Feb. 20. (Jeff Gritchen/Orange County Register/SCNG via TNS)

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A $7.2 million “catchment wall” will be built at a landslide area in northern San Clemente, Calif., to hold back the slipping hillside and get passenger train service running through to San Diego again.

The California Transportation Commission has committed the funding to the Orange County Transportation Authority, which owns the railroad tracks, to build the wall and repair the area of slope that collapsed in January — first onto the city’s Mariposa pedestrian bridge and then onto the tracks below, cutting off passenger service through San Clemente.

After the rain clears this week and the site dries, the dimensions of the wall and construction schedule will be finalized, Metrolink spokesman Scott Johnson said in an email. The OCTA owns the tracks, and Metrolink manages the right-of-way.

The wall between the tracks and the hillside will be similar to one built below the city’s historic Casa Romantica last year after a landslide there threatened the railway and halted service for many months, Johnson noted.

The latest landslide also damaged the pedestrian bridge at Mariposa Point that is part of the city’s popular beach trail; it is unclear at this time what will happen with the bridge where it is adjacent to the tracks. A section has to be demolished because of the damage.

Discussions have taken place between the OCTA and San Clemente city officials about the bridge, “but the primary focus right now is the wall and protecting the right-of-way,” Johnson said.


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The railway is part of the 351-mile Los Angeles-San Diego-San Luis Obispo Rail Corridor, or LOSSAN, and is used by both passenger and freight trains — sections run along beachfront in San Clemente.

The California Transportation Commission previously kicked in $2 million in emergency funding for debris removal and other preconstruction services, Johnson said.

The latest costs put the total price tag due to landslides in the past two years for the OCTA and the state near $37 million, which includes various cleanups, repairs, installing tiebacks with steel cables into bedrock to secure an initial landslide further south two years ago and the wall construction below the Casa Romantica last year.

In addition, the city has also spent an estimated $8.5 million to secure the slope at the Casa Romantica. Officials are expecting the removal of the demolished Mariposa bridge to cost about $70,000.

Metrolink signed a design-build contract for the new wall at Mariposa Point last week with Condon-Johnson & Associates, a construction firm that has worked with the OCTA on previous emergency rail protection efforts in San Clemente.

Ahead of this week’s rain, Metrolink and OCTA project teams — in coordination with the city and private property owners — laid out more protective plastic along the hillside.

The team is continuing to observe hillside movement and daily removal of debris from the right of way, Johnson said.

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BNSF is moving freight trains through the area between 9 p.m. and 4 a.m., and the late-night trips are “expected to continue as the project team closely monitors the slope and right of way to ensure safety,” according to Metrolink.

As storms continue to batter the region, it is becoming increasingly common for California’s coastal transportation infrastructure to suffer storm-related damage, forcing closures and delays, Metrolink officials said in a recent statement.

In addition to the troubles in San Clemente, Pacific Coast Highway north of Malibu is closed indefinitely during nighttime hours due to storm damage along stretches of the roadway.

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