A $300 million dollar grant has been accepted by San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG) to move forward with plans to reroute trains off Del Mar bluff into the San Dieguito Lagoon and Sorrento Valley.
“This is a momentous day,” said Danny Veeh, a senior planner at the San Diego Association of Governments. “It’s larger than any other award that SANDAG has received to work on the LOSSAN corridor.”
The train route from San Diego to Los Angeles/San Luis Obispo, known as the LOSSAN corridor, is one of the busiest in the U.S., moving 8 million passeners and $1 billion in goods each year.
For years, the corridor has suffered constant interruptions in service due to the unstead nature of the bluffs along Del Mar, which errode at a rate of 4-6 inches per year, which presents “a viable threat to public safety.”
Despite work done by SANDAG to stabilize the seaswall, retaining wall, and drainage system along the Del Mar coast, bluff failures still occur.
Back in 2017 after feasibility studies were completed, five potential routes were identified by SANDAG to circumvent the dangerous Del Mar coastline. In 2021 that list was narrowed to two options, which both rely on sections of underground tunnels.
Most agree that moving the tracks off the Del Mar bluffs is necessary, but the two potential replacement routes (the Del Mar Heights and the Camino Del Mar) are not unanamously supported. Some argue that the route should run parallel with Interstate 5, but SANDAG says this option was not preferable since the tunnel would need to be longer, deeper and as a result, a much more expensive alternative.
Homeowners in the proposed areas have expressed concern over being close to the tunnel's entry/exit portals, and ventilation shafts. They are worried about whether they will be able to feel vibrations from trains traveling beneath their homes.
Veeh assures the county that public concerns will be addressed as further studies take place. So far, their research shows that a tunnel beneath Del Mar is the most viable option.
“We are right now advancing the conceptual tunnel work,” he said. “We are kicking off an information campaign to teach the public about tunneling.”
In addition to the tunnel, the plan also includes double tracking, which would add a second set of rails making the corridor more efficient by allowing trains to pass each other.
Veeh says that plans won't be finalized until 2026, with construction starting in 2026 and hopefully completed in 2035.
The $300 million grant will allow SANDAG to complete preliminary engineering, environmental documents, final design, and an executive task force to help fund the actual construction of the new route.