Octa's transportation blog

OCTA Moves Ahead with the First of Two Rail Studies

OCTA is pushing forward on studying solutions to protect the vital coastal rail line that connects passengers, freight and military assets from San Diego County to Orange County and important destinations farther north.

HDR Engineering Inc. will lead the South Coast Rail Infrastructure Feasibility Study and Alternative Concepts Analysis. The study will bring together technical experts and public agency partners and engage a wide range of stakeholders to pinpoint the issues threatening the rail corridor and offer solutions to protect it.

Two major landslides in the past year near the rail line in San Clemente forced the temporary closure of the track to passenger service for several months while OCTA and its partners worked on emergency projects to stabilize the track and protect it from falling debris.

The track through San Clemente reopened to all service in July and remains open, including to Metrolink regional rail and Amtrak Pacific Surfliner passengers. 

Now OCTA is moving ahead with the first of two studies to seek longer-term solutions.

“We’ve seen just how important this rail line is – especially with the challenges of the last year – to the tens of thousands of passengers and the business owners and others who rely on steady train service,” said OCTA Chairman Gene Hernandez, also the mayor of Yorba Linda. “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.”

Framework for Studies

OCTA will use a two-phased approach to study rail issues.

The first phase, including the cities of Dana Point and San Clemente and unincorporated coastal regions of Orange and San Diego counties, will examine short- to medium-term solutions. Goals include:

  • 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

The study is expected to cost approximately $2 million, with grant funding already identified. Future costs for making the necessary improvements to ensure ongoing rail operations along the 7 miles of south Orange County coast would be identified through the study.

The second phase will look at longer-term options and will include:

  • 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

OCTA will partner with other agencies such as Metrolink, the LOSSAN Rail Corridor Agency, the California Coastal Commission, United States Army Corps of Engineers, and other key stakeholders.