Betting on the Bluffs

The $10.5 million the state allocated to SANDAG to rebuild the Del Mar bluffs after the February 28, 2021, failure south of 4th Street is at work. The bluffs have been terraced and the next step is construction of a seawall buffer to protect them against the tides. This periodic patch work is ongoing in an effort to keep the train tracks atop of the bluffs viable along the 351 mile LOSSAN (Los Angeles-San Diego-San Luis Obispo) rail corridor, the second busiest in the nation. Amtrak passenger trains, NCTD commuter trains plus BNSF Railway freight trains all pass through.

Bluff photos Julie Maxey-Allison.

Given the importance of the Del Mar rail link and the cliffs’ clear vulnerability as they continue to crumble, SANDAG executive director Hasan Ikhrata at a Del Mar City Council meeting in July: “I hope that in two years time, this long-term project will be environmentally cleared and designed so it’s shovel-ready for any potential federal or state funding to come.” Can hope be harnessed while SANDAG ponders where and when to permanently reroute the tracks off the disintegrating bluffs? At what risk to riders? A feasibility study is underway. If a plan can be agreed on, it is then a matter of time, many years, and money, many billions, before the next route, possibly a tunnel under Del Mar, can replace the current tracks. Till then, how long can hope hold up the cliffs that hold up the train tracks? It’s a gamble.