Improved Storm Drainage and Additional Support Columns to Ensure Rail Service Reliability for Region
San Diego CA— SANDAG, the North County Transit District (NCTD), Caltrans District 11, and the City of Del Mar are celebrating the completion of the fourth phase of stabilization projects along the Del Mar Bluffs. Construction began in May 2020 and took approximately seven months to complete.
Phase 4 included the installation of additional support columns to stabilize localized areas and sea walls, construction of a drainage channel along the top of the bluffs, and improvements to concrete channels and storm drain outfalls. The Del Mar Bluffs regularly experience erosion—roughly six inches per year on average—largely due to storm and irrigation runoff, as well as sea level rise. These critical investments in drainage infrastructure improvements will direct channel water across the bluffs and to the ocean, further reinforcing and protecting the bluffs.
“The completion of this work demonstrates significant progress in our multi-phased strategy to secure the Del Mar Bluffs and ensure continued reliability of this important rail corridor,” said SANDAG Chair and Encinitas Mayor Catherine Blakespear. “SANDAG is currently evaluating long-term alternatives to completely move the tracks off the bluffs to ensure the safe operation of the LOSSAN corridor, which serves nearly 8 million passengers annually, and is a major economic lifeline for San Diego County.”
Since 2003, SANDAG and NCTD have completed three stabilization projects along the Del Mar Bluffs between Coast Boulevard and Torrey Pines State Beach. To date, efforts include the installation of more than 230 concrete and steel support columns and improvements to drainage infrastructure to protect the bluffs from future erosion.
“It is always a pleasure to announce the completion of a project that will enhance safety and ensure the security of the Del Mar Bluffs. Improving the condition of this section of the LOSSAN corridor is a top priority for NCTD,” said Tony Kranz, NCTD Board Chair and Encinitas Councilmember. “NCTD is dedicated to increasing rail reliability on the coastal corridor by partnering with all local agencies on these important projects, evidenced through our collective efforts to evaluate funding needs for future stabilization projects.”
Last year, California State Transportation Agency Secretary David Kim convened a working group to determine the critical pathway needed to secure the stabilization of the Del Mar Bluffs for the coming decades. The working group is comprised of federal, state, and local officials; the executive leadership of regional transportation agencies; and representatives from stakeholder organizations and academia.
On December 2, 2020, the California Transportation Commission awarded the San Diego region $106 million for a portfolio of rail enhancement projects along the LOSSAN corridor, including $36.2 million to support the next phase of stabilization efforts. SANDAG, NCTD, Caltrans, and the City of Del Mar continue to be fully committed to securing the bluffs, with a focus on public transparency and safety throughout the process.
“This is a very important step toward realizing the dream of making transit competitive with the automobile and for curbing climate change-inducing emissions in our region,” said Caltrans Interstate 5 Corridor Director Allan Kosup. “This grant will go a long way to modernize and install an advanced train control system that will lead to faster travel times, increased rail ridership, and an improved alternative to driving along Interstate 5.”
Construction for Phase 5 is slated to begin in 2022. This phase of the project will address additional seismic and critical stabilization needs, including the installation of more support columns and replacing aging drainage structures. Phase 6 will continue to provide long-term rehabilitation and stabilization work, including protecting the base of the bluffs against additional bluff retreat. Recent erosion of the Del Mar Bluffs has highlighted the urgent need to identify a feasible long-term solution for the corridor.
“The Del Mar bluff stabilization efforts address the immediate concern to preserve track-bed support and ensure safe, reliable rail service for passengers and freight movement,” said Terry Gaasterland, Del Mar Mayor. “The City of Del Mar, SANDAG, NCTD, and Caltrans have worked together to complete the phase 4 bluff stabilization. I applaud their unwavering commitment to the long-term goal of removing the railroad from the bluffs.”
While SANDAG and NCTD work to stabilize the bluffs, SANDAG is seeking additional funding to expedite the process of moving the bluffs inward as a long-term strategy. The funds needed will increase the reliability of passenger rail service for nearly 8 million annual passengers and keep nearly $1 billion a year of goods consistently moving through the corridor.
“The rail service through Del Mar supports countless jobs and economic activity throughout the region, so it’s critically important that we stabilize the coastal bluffs under these tracks,” said Congressman Mike Levin. “I was proud to announce an $11.6 million federal grant for this project earlier this year, and I’m excited to see the continued progress being made by SANDAG and NCTD to stabilize the bluffs and keep our community safe.”
The health and safety of the public, including all partners, stakeholders, and construction crew members, remain a top priority as all project and construction activities are closely assessed and monitored in compliance with COVID-19 federal, state, and local guidelines.
About the Del Mar Bluffs Stabilization projects
SANDAG, NCTD, and Caltrans are leading efforts to stabilize portions of the 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. The approximately $5.8 million Phase 4 stabilization efforts was funded through a combination of federal, state, and local sources.
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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The North County Transit District is a public transportation agency providing over 10 million passenger trips in Fiscal Year 2019 throughout North San Diego County and into downtown San Diego. NCTD is designated as a rail common carrier by the Surface Transportation Board based on the movement of interstate commerce on the tracks and the Railroad of Record by the Federal Railroad Administration responsible for safety over the entire San Diego portion of the LOSSAN corridor. NCTD’s system includes BREEZE buses (with FLEX service), COASTER commuter trains, SPRINTER hybrid rail trains, and LIFT paratransit service. NCTD’s mission is to deliver safe, convenient, reliable, and user-friendly public transportation services. For more information visit: GoNCTD.com.