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photo: courtesy NCTD

New Phase of Bluff Stabilization Work to Begin in Del Mar

SANDAG and NCTD to begin construction on 1.7 Miles of Coastal Bluffs

Del Mar CA— Starting next week, SANDAG and the North County Transit District (NCTD) will begin the fourth phase of stabilization efforts along the 1.7 miles of coastal bluffs in Del Mar.

The work includes adding support columns for stabilization, constructing a drainage channel on top of the bluffs, repairing concrete channels and storm drain outfalls, and fortifying existing retaining walls. In the prior three phases of the stabilization project, more than 200 support columns were installed and critical investments were made to improve drainage infrastructure, which helps to reinforce and protect the Del Mar bluffs.

“Stabilizing the Del Mar bluffs is a top priority for SANDAG as it is critical for goods movement, commuters, and supporting our nation’s military,” said SANDAG Chair and Poway Mayor Steve Vaus. “In addition to this work, we are studying long-term alternatives to relocate the tracks inland, which will improve travel times, increase capacity, and more importantly continue to keep passengers safe while traveling on the rail lines.”

Starting the week of May 4, crews will work weekdays from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. along sections of the upper and lower bluffs from 15th Street to Carmel Valley Road.

Nearby residents may see and hear construction crews, heavy equipment, and Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) required vehicle back-up alarms.

Rail service will be maintained for the duration of the project.

Improvements to the rail corridor in Del Mar are critical for the Los Angeles-San Diego-San Luis Obispo (LOSSAN) corridor, an economic lifeline for the San Diego region.

“The LOSSAN rail line is the second busiest intercity rail corridor in the nation, supporting nearly $1 billion in goods and services and millions of passengers per year,” said Tony Kranz, NCTD Board Chair and Encinitas Councilmember. “As such, it is critical that we ensure the reliability of this corridor through bluff stabilization.”

The Del Mar bluffs experience erosion regularly – roughly six inches per year on average – which is largely due to storm and irrigation runoff, and sea level rise. In November 2019, the bluffs saw two significant erosion events and SANDAG and NCTD worked quickly to make needed repairs and restore rail service.

“The City of Del Mar is no stranger to bluff failures along the rail corridor,” said Ellie Haviland, Del Mar Mayor. “I applaud the efforts of SANDAG and NCTD to secure the bluffs as well as their commitment to examining long-term alternatives to remove the railroad from the bluffs.”

Since 2003, SANDAG and NCTD have completed three stabilization projects along coastal bluffs between Coast Boulevard. The California State Transportation Agency recently awarded SANDAG $5 million through the Transit Improvement Rail Capital Program for a future phase of the stabilization project. Recent erosion of the Del Mar bluffs have unscored the immediate need to identify a long-term solution for the corridor. While work continues on stabilizing the bluffs, SANDAG is seeking $5 million to evaluate alternative strategies to move the tracks completely off the bluffs, including a potential tunnel.

SANDAG advises the public to adhere to Federal, State, and local guidelines during the COVID-19 pandemic. While access to the beach will be maintained during construction, the beach is currently closed to the public.

Public works construction activities are considered essential. Protecting the health and safety of the San Diego region, including our partners, contractors, and stakeholders, is a top priority. Construction workers are following precautionary health and safety measures. SANDAG continues to monitor developments and follow all health guidance and orders.

About the Del Mar Bluffs Stabilization projects

SANDAG and NCTD are leading efforts to stabilize portions of the 1.7 miles of coastal bluffs in the City of Del Mar. This integral part of the 351-mile Los Angeles – San Diego – San Luis Obispo (LOSSAN) rail corridor is a vital link for passenger and freight movements within San Diego County, as well as between San Diego, Los Angeles, and points farther north. Phase 4 stabilization efforts cost approximately $5.8 million and is funded through a combination of federal, state, and local sources.  The current project is anticipated to be complete in late 2020.

To learn more, visit KeepSanDiegoMoving.com/DelMarBluffs. Sign-up for email notifications at KeepSanDiegoMoving.com/Contact or call (858) 549-RAIL.


The San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG) is the San Diego region’s primary public planning, transportation, and research agency, providing the public forum for regional policy decisions about growth, transportation planning and construction, environmental management, housing, open space, energy, public safety, and binational topics. SANDAG is governed by a Board of Directors composed of mayors, council members, and supervisors from each of the region’s 18 cities and the county government.

To protect the health and safety of staff, partners, and the general public, SANDAG offices are closed to the public. Our team is working remotely during this time to provide essential services, and to continue progress on critical regional projects. SANDAG will continue to monitor the development of COVID-19 in the region and follow guidance from the  San Diego County Health and Human Services Agency.

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