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Where to move the trains from Del Mar bluffs?

Tunnel vs. along I-5

The 1-5 tunnel lagoon alignment would get trains out of two lagoons.
The 1-5 tunnel lagoon alignment would get trains out of two lagoons.


Powerful winter storms and a recent landslide that stopped the trains in San Clemente are reminders of the urgency of moving the rail line off the Del Mar bluffs.

But where to put the massive 1.6-mile $300 million dollar project?

At Monday's Del Mar City Council meeting, the San Diego Association of Governments discussed the latest on moving the trains away from the eroding bluffs. Dozens showed up to speak on that one topic. For many the theme was: not under my house, don't wreck the town. 

The Pacific Surfliner ridership makes ours the second busiest intercity rail corridor in the nation.


The rail realignment project is envisioned as routing trains into a tunnel beneath Del Mar, with about a dozen possible routes in the running. More are expected to be identified this year, and all options are on the table, officials said. Final selection of alternatives will be in 2026. 

"We've got this tunnel mentality," said local  Mac McLoughlin, who preferred the option that would run the rail alongside the 1-5. "I think the problem is freight." Some of that could be shifted to the 1-5, he suggested, then having light rail for those needing transit without burrowing under the city.

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The San Diego region contains 61 miles of the 351-mile railway that travels from San Luis Obispo to downtown. Officials said in 2023, there were 1,517,425 riders on the Pacific Surfliner, making the LOSSAN the second busiest intercity rail corridor in the nation. Among the plans, the agency wants to double track the segment to improve transit and freight capacity.

Planning will remain in the public outreach phase throughout this year. "Nothing's been decided yet," said the agency's interim CEO, Coleen Clementson. "We want to hear — what are we missing?"

So far, public input shows people want to make sure the 1-5 alignment and fairgrounds alignment are high on the list of alternatives. For their part, the fairgrounds association is against having the rail cut through the state-owned property, where affordable housing is being considered. 

Other suggestions included a cost benefit analysis. Kevin Patrick, with the School of Public Health at UCSD, argued for a Rails to Trails conversion, saying it could reduce obesity and improve the environment. "This is not just a Del Mar issue." 

Camilla Rang spoke in favor of the 1-5 tunnel lagoon alignment. Double track through Solana Beach, starting in the trench. It would get trains out of two lagoons; require no bridge in the San Dieguito River; protect the northern access to town, and wouldn't impact the fairgrounds, businesses or homes. "This option must be studied in 2024." 

Most of this year will be devoted to defining the project, planners said. The final environmental report won't be ready until 2026, when the agency's board of directors will consider approving it — which will determine the final alignment.

The design will be developed between 2026-2028, with construction occurring from 2028-2035. Access to the fairgrounds, businesses and emergency routes will be maintained during construction, officials said. Most construction will be at the south portal, which has direct access to 1-5. And somewhere in all of that will be right-of-way acquisition.

Officials said it's too soon to know if homes will have to be acquired to make way for a tunnel.

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The 1-5 tunnel lagoon alignment would get trains out of two lagoons.
The 1-5 tunnel lagoon alignment would get trains out of two lagoons.


Powerful winter storms and a recent landslide that stopped the trains in San Clemente are reminders of the urgency of moving the rail line off the Del Mar bluffs.

But where to put the massive 1.6-mile $300 million dollar project?

At Monday's Del Mar City Council meeting, the San Diego Association of Governments discussed the latest on moving the trains away from the eroding bluffs. Dozens showed up to speak on that one topic. For many the theme was: not under my house, don't wreck the town. 

The Pacific Surfliner ridership makes ours the second busiest intercity rail corridor in the nation.


The rail realignment project is envisioned as routing trains into a tunnel beneath Del Mar, with about a dozen possible routes in the running. More are expected to be identified this year, and all options are on the table, officials said. Final selection of alternatives will be in 2026. 

"We've got this tunnel mentality," said local  Mac McLoughlin, who preferred the option that would run the rail alongside the 1-5. "I think the problem is freight." Some of that could be shifted to the 1-5, he suggested, then having light rail for those needing transit without burrowing under the city.

Sponsored
Sponsored

The San Diego region contains 61 miles of the 351-mile railway that travels from San Luis Obispo to downtown. Officials said in 2023, there were 1,517,425 riders on the Pacific Surfliner, making the LOSSAN the second busiest intercity rail corridor in the nation. Among the plans, the agency wants to double track the segment to improve transit and freight capacity.

Planning will remain in the public outreach phase throughout this year. "Nothing's been decided yet," said the agency's interim CEO, Coleen Clementson. "We want to hear — what are we missing?"

So far, public input shows people want to make sure the 1-5 alignment and fairgrounds alignment are high on the list of alternatives. For their part, the fairgrounds association is against having the rail cut through the state-owned property, where affordable housing is being considered. 

Other suggestions included a cost benefit analysis. Kevin Patrick, with the School of Public Health at UCSD, argued for a Rails to Trails conversion, saying it could reduce obesity and improve the environment. "This is not just a Del Mar issue." 

Camilla Rang spoke in favor of the 1-5 tunnel lagoon alignment. Double track through Solana Beach, starting in the trench. It would get trains out of two lagoons; require no bridge in the San Dieguito River; protect the northern access to town, and wouldn't impact the fairgrounds, businesses or homes. "This option must be studied in 2024." 

Most of this year will be devoted to defining the project, planners said. The final environmental report won't be ready until 2026, when the agency's board of directors will consider approving it — which will determine the final alignment.

The design will be developed between 2026-2028, with construction occurring from 2028-2035. Access to the fairgrounds, businesses and emergency routes will be maintained during construction, officials said. Most construction will be at the south portal, which has direct access to 1-5. And somewhere in all of that will be right-of-way acquisition.

Officials said it's too soon to know if homes will have to be acquired to make way for a tunnel.

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