After O.C. landslide halted trains, agency to tap emergency funds

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The Orange County Transportation Authority is getting emergency aid to repair train tracks in San Clemente after a landslide that halted service indefinitely between Orange and San Diego counties.

On Thursday, Caltrans issued an emergency declaration as a result of the recent landslide. Passenger train service was stopped between the Laguna Niguel/Mission Viejo and Oceanside stations, which are used by Metrolink and Amtrak passengers.

“The hillside still is moving, which is why passenger rail service hasn’t resumed,” said Scott Johnson, director of communications for Metrolink. He said, however, measures were taken to brace the hillside above the tracks before Thursday’s storm set in.

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The emergency declaration allows the OCTA, which owns that section of the rail line, to access up to $10 million in immediate emergency repair funding.

On Jan. 24, track personnel observed debris and dirt falling onto the track, prompting the closure, Johnson told The Times on Thursday.

Ahead of this week’s storm, “there was a significant amount of excavation and grading that took place,” Johnson said, “along with efforts to restore an extensive culvert system.”

Workers placed tubes, pipes, ballast and rock as well as tarping to brace for the rain.

Teams were “out there throughout the day Wednesday,” he said. “They do continue to see movement, but no significant debris has fallen onto the track.”

Some freight trains are still allowed to use the track between the hours of 9 p.m. and 3 a.m. but at drastically reduced speeds, he said.

Despite the emergency declaration and impending funding, there is still no timeline as to when passenger rail service will resume.

This isn’t the first time in recent years that the tracks have been closed due to a landslide. A similar incident occurred in April.

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