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$7.2 Million Wall For Landslide Protection Along San Clemente Train Route

Jeff Gritchen, Orange County Register/SCNG

A $7.2 million "catchment wall" is set to be constructed in northern San Clemente at a landslide-prone area. This wall aims to stabilize the slipping hillside and restore passenger train service to San Diego. The California Transportation Commission has allocated funds to the Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA), which manages the railroad tracks, for the construction of the wall and the repair of the collapsed slope. The collapse, which occurred in January, initially affected the Mariposa pedestrian bridge and subsequently disrupted the railway service.

Metrolink spokesperson Scott Johnson mentioned that once the rain subsides and the site dries, the specifics of the wall's dimensions and the construction timeline will be finalized. The OCTA owns the tracks, while Metrolink oversees the right-of-way.

The design of the wall, situated between the tracks and the hillside, will resemble a similar structure erected below the city's Casa Romantica last year to address landslide threats and service interruptions. The recent landslide also inflicted damage on the Mariposa Point pedestrian bridge, a component of the city's popular beach trail.

The fate of the bridge, particularly its section adjacent to the tracks, remains uncertain, with discussions ongoing between the OCTA and San Clemente officials. “But the primary focus right now is the wall and protecting the right-of-way,” Johnson said.

The affected railway forms part of the 351-mile Los Angeles-San Diego-San Luis Obispo Rail Corridor (LOSSAN), accommodating both passenger and freight trains, including sections along San Clemente's beachfront.

Previously, the California Transportation Commission allocated $2 million in emergency funding for debris removal and preliminary construction services. The recent expenditures related to landslides over the past two years amount to nearly $37 million for the OCTA and the state, covering various cleanup efforts, repairs, and proactive measures like installing tie backs with steel cables into bedrock to mitigate risks. Additionally, the city has invested approximately $8.5 million to stabilize the slope at Casa Romantica. The removal of the demolished Mariposa bridge is estimated to cost around $70,000.

Metrolink has entered into a design-build contract with Condon-Johnson & Associates, a construction firm experienced in emergency rail protection projects in San Clemente, for the construction of the new wall at Mariposa Point. Ahead of anticipated rainfall, Metrolink, OCTA project teams, the city, and private property owners have collaborated to enhance protective measures, including laying out additional plastic along the hillside.

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