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Economy

US Secretary of Transportation tours San Diego's coastal rail lines

The U.S. Secretary of Transportation got a first-person look at the erosion along the railroad tracks in North County. KPBS North County reporter Tania Thorne has more.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg got a first-hand look Tuesday at San Diego's coastal railroad tracks, sitting atop cliffs suffering from erosion.

Buttigieg joined U.S. Congressman Mike Levin (D-49th District), San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria and State Sen. President Pro Tem Toni Atkins (D-39th District) for a ride on the train from the Old Town Transit Station to Solana Beach.

His visit comes after rail service got suspended from Oceanside to Irvine due to cliff movement near San Clemente. The ride gave Buttigieg some perspective on the ongoing problem, and the challenges in solving it.

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"Really, what we have to do is make sure that the timetables of government and construction start bending to meet the timetables set by physics, instead of the other way around," Buttigieg said. "Having now had a chance to see for myself just how few feet stand between these rails and the bluffs and the beach, you can see how little room for maneuvers, so to speak, there really is."

Emergency repair work was approved by the California Transportation Commission in early October, and is estimated to cost $12 million.

Anchors will be placed into bedrock to help stabilize the ground movement in San Clemente.

Train service is expected to reopen by the end of the year with construction continuing until 2023, but the time frames are subject to change. In the meantime, travelers are relying on buses to connect from Oceanside to Orange County.

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Relocation of the coastal rail lines is receiving support.

In July, the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG), received over $300 million from the state's budget to move the train tracks off Del Mar bluffs.

SANDAG and North County Transit District were seeking this additional funding to expedite the planning process to move the tracks inland as a long-term strategy to increase the reliability of passenger rail service.

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