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Construction To Stabilize Tracks On Del Mar Bluffs To Continue In 2020

 December 30, 2019 at 10:21 AM PST

Speaker 1: 00:00 The crumbling Bluffs in Del Mar are threatening the coastal railway line that carries about 50 trains a day, keeping thousands of passengers and millions of tons of freight off interstate five North County transit district, which operates the line was forced to close it briefly earlier this month after yet another bluff collapse brought the train tracks to within feet of the cliffs above the beach to find out how things are going. We invited Steven Fordham, who's director of railroad engineering at North County transit. Thanks for coming in, Steve. Thank you very much for having me. So it's my understanding that North County transit and SANDAG have spent between what, 10 and $15 million in, in the last few years on shoring out these Bluffs. We've initially had. We've done, we've completed three projects that began in the mid two thousands and finished probably around 2010, 2011 timeframe. And so we are proceeding with a, uh, Damar bus for project. Speaker 1: 00:52 We basically just started numbering them down, our buffs one, two, three, four and so on. And Del Mar bus for, uh, we've completed design. They've awarded a contract to a construction company in that project, we'll be starting this January, 2020 and that's a fairly small project, only about three and a half to $4 million in cost. And that's basically fixing some aged, um, storm drain infrastructure and then repairing some seawalls that currently exist, uh, at the beach level. Okay. But SANDAG has estimated that if the Bluffs were to collapse and the line had to be closed, it would cost about $300 million over 12 months to reroute the passengers and all the freight, the cars and everything that, that use that line. So faced with those numbers, I mean hundreds of millions, um, what kind of investment is being made right now to see that it doesn't happen? So in conjunction with the Domar bus for starting, um, construction in January, we're moving forward with the design for Daimler bus five, which are the, essentially repair all of the existing or improve all of the existing, um, drainage structures that currently are located in the Bluffs, dealing with some storm water run on from city streets. Speaker 1: 02:05 And then in addition to that, it would add additional, uh, piling along all of the Bluffs for greater lateral stability there. And then we would also do some additional drainage fixing and do some studies for, um, improved a geotechnical study that hasn't been done in about 20 years. So in addition to that, we would proceed with, uh, hopefully finding funding for Damar Bluffs six, which is bluff toe protection and adding additional measures in order to, um, mitigate sea or wave action from the ocean and got sea level rise to continue level. There's several things that contribute to the Bluffs, whether it be rain, irrigation, runoff, inclement weather, um, people accessing the beach from the Bluffs, rodents. And then of course, uh, seismic events. The times that they seem to collapse is during the rainy season. Last year, beginning of this year, we lost about 30 feet off the Sandy Bluffs right next to the beach. Speaker 1: 03:00 But then this most recent one was much closer to the tracks. It left him, but you know, two, three feet away from the edge. Yeah, we had, we had a significant rain event at Thanksgiving, so we probably got about two months worth of rain in about two days and there's a significant amount of water that runs on to the Bluffs. And in that it, it was, it overwhelmed some of the um, storm drains and that basically the water just kind of pawns up and then seeps through the ballast, which is the large fist size aggregate or rock that's, that holds the track bed together and then it overtopped and kind of rushed and, and drained over the edge of the Bluffs and caused some erosion. I know you've put in hundreds of these soldier piles, these three over 230 of them in these columns sort of stabilize their Bluffs. Speaker 1: 03:44 But I mean, forgive me for asking, but if the cliffs were the crumble between the soldier pals with that hold up the line, basically what they're done and the repair that we did in early December, um, those piles are about anywhere from about 10 to 12 feet on center and they're designed to have a wall built between them. And that's exactly what we did with our repair. So it has had the engineers come up with any more uh, effective solutions because it doesn't seem like what you're doing so far has prevented the Bluffs from crumbling there. The, there's, um, that would have to be involved to, to mitigate everything, whether it be people accessing the Bluffs, the sea level rise, all, all of those, those, those factors that, that, that affect the bluff erosion that would have to be dealt with. So we would have to do additional say, uh, structures at the bottom to prevent, say, toe erosion of the bluff. Speaker 1: 04:33 We had a, there's a, we had a bluff collapse in North of Moonlight beach this summer. That was very unfortunate where there's some fatalities involved, but that's where the ocean washed out the base of the bluff. And then it kind of overhangs cantilevers over the beach and gets heavy and then falls off. And that's kind of what we're, we would try and prevent with the Damar Bluffs six project. It just seems that from the perspective of the person traveling along the train tracks that things are getting worse relatively fast. And I'm wondering if the plans to protect those tracks are actually evolving fast enough to meet the threat? I believe so. We have, uh, there's fortunately Senator Tony Atkins provided a state funding grant for uh, SANDAG and TTD to do work on the Bluffs. That's a $30 million grant, just 30 million over five years. We've asked for all of that money up front in order to proceed with Damar plus five sooner than later, which is probably about a $30 million cost, somewhere around 25 to $30 million to do the work that would finally stabilize the Bluffs for the next day, 20 to 30 to 40 year timeframe when a potential alternative route is explored. Speaker 1: 05:36 Well, I mean, that would seem to be the best solution would be to get the trains off the Bluffs and put them underground, but that would cost about three, three to $5 billion. And initially planning at all as to when you would even start planning. They would start doing some of that planning and thinking about that in this, during the the Del Mar Bluffs six project where you'd have to do the analysis, there's probably land takes that need to occur with that in additional to probably a large amount of environmental clearance. And then actually finding the, the right of way to put, um, you know, a combination of either elevated track at grade track or tunnels in that location. And it's not one tunnel, it's three, one for northbound, one for southbound and one to, you know, remove people should a train break down or something like that. Speaker 1: 06:20 And the, and this plan [inaudible] when does that going to happen? Uh, that is, we hope to go to design with that as soon as the design for five is complete and we moved towards five and construction designs. Yes. Hopefully sooner than that. I see. I said it depends on funding. We've applied for several funding grants, whether it's through the, the, uh, state transportation improvement program or the transit and inner city rail Capitol program. And then on a federal level, there's the, the new acronym is the better utilizing investments to leverage development or build grants, federal money, federal money. Right. And finally, Steve, you know, uh, I guess travelers can expect to see some closures next month when you do the next phase. Yes, we have six absolute work windows a year and potentially even more. And that's to basically do a construction where we would actually have to take a section of track out or do something that would prevent train movement. Speaker 1: 07:10 And that is for several of the other construction projects that we have in the corridor are mainly the mid coast corridor transit project, which is doing some significant workforce down South will be expect to see the tracks close in February. Um, yeah, we have to spend the rains. Sweet. Well we'll have to quote, we'll have to closures. We'll have, uh, we have an enclosure in January and these are already pre selected a couple, uh, two years out just to allow for construction. But should we need to do, we've done a, a vast majority of work in the last month when we had this large storm at Thanksgiving. And so we have people that are during, prior to during and after rain events, we have a, what's essentially called a rain event action plan where we have, um, our maintenance of way contractor essentially is, um, monitors the Bluffs 24 hours a day, seven days a week until to make sure all drainage, um, any kind of drainage issues are taken care of or brought to the attention of everyone else in order to, to, to find some mitigative measure. Well, Steve, thanks for bringing us up to date on that. Thank you very much for having me. Steve Fordham is the director of railroad engineering at North County transit. Speaker 2: 08:27 [inaudible].

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The North County Transit District plans to begin construction in January on phase four of a multi-year project to stabilize the bluffs next to the railway line through Del Mar.
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