The San Diego area is set to receive $300 million to help relocate railroad tracks from eroding cliffs in Del Mar, regional transportation officials announced Friday.
The funding is part of the $308 billion California state budget recently signed by Governor Gavin Newsom, which also includes $4.2 billion to complete the state’s high-speed rail project in the valley. central between Bakersfield and Merced.
Sections of the beachfront cliffs in Del Mar have abruptly collapsed in recent years, causing Coaster and Amtrak service to be temporarily halted for hours or days at a stretch. Transit officials have reassured the public that passenger and freight trains along the city’s 1.7-mile stretch of track are safe, but landslides have repeatedly raised the specter of a disaster.
Nearby Torrey Pines State Beach experienced a major cave-in on Wednesday, which sent boulders larger than a car tumbling onto the sand. No one was injured, according to law enforcement.
The San Diego Association. of Governments, or SANDAG, and the North County Transit District spent decades shoring up the cliffs and repairing stormwater drainage structures, which along with high tides have regularly eroded the cliffs.
Still, senior state and local officials have recognized the need to eventually move the tracks inland, a project currently expected to cost about $2.5 billion, according to SANDAG officials. Previous estimates have reached $4 billion.
The new cash injection will allow SANDAG to compete for matching funds for the $1.2 trillion infrastructure package passed by Congress last year, SANDAG Executive Director Hasan Ikhrata said.
“This $300 million is an essential down payment,” he said. “We’ve talked for years about moving the train tracks from the Del Mar bluffs, and with this funding, now we can do it.”
Ikhrata said his agency already has a plan for the project that would move the tracks in a tunnel about 80 feet underground and inland nearly a mile. Pending the environmental review, the project could start within three years and be completed by the end of the decade, he said.
The Del Mar tracks are part of the 351-mile Los Angeles-San Diego-San Luis Obispo Rail Corridor, which carries approximately 8 million passengers and more than $1 billion in freight each year. The line is a key link between factories in Mexico and markets in the United States.