DEL MAR — Why now and not this winter? That was the main question from residents during a May 26 informational open house about the upcoming bluff stabilization project along the railroad tracks in Del Mar.
The San Diego Association of Governments will begin work on 1.6 miles of coastal bluffs that may be at risk of failure because of natural erosion. Leslie Wade, public outreach director, said the five-month project is scheduled to begin in June for two reasons — safety and coordination with other projects along the rail line.
“We are constantly monitoring the condition of the bluffs and the soil to make sure nothing’s going to fall down,” she said.
Recent soil engineering studies indicated a threat of failure between Seagrove Park and Torrey Pines State Beach since that area that was last stabilized in 2007.
The type of soil construction that will be done is also best conducted during the dry season rather than winter, when rain could cause delays and greater impacts to residents.
Work is also planned this summer along the Los Angeles to San Diego rail corridor. There will be less disruption to train service if work is coordinated to occur on all those projects at the same time, Wade said.
Most construction will be done Sunday through Thursday nights from 10:30 p.m. to 5:30 a.m. because workers must access the tracks.
About 50 trains run along the corridor daily so night work is the only way to ensure worker safety and avoid service interruption. Late-night Coaster service from Padres games will not be affected, however, passengers on the last southbound Amtrak train will be bused from Solana Beach or possibly Oceanside to downtown.
The project will be completed in five sections. Work in the first three areas between Seagrove Park and Sixth Street will have the most impact on residents. Those sections should take about six weeks each to finish.
“I know this can be pretty disruptive, so we want to get in and out of areas adjacent to people’s homes as quickly as possible,” project manager Ramon Ruelas said.
“The equipment isn’t loud,” he explained to one property owner. “It’s the clanging of the steel.”
Priscilla Fawcett, a Del Mar resident since 1979 who lives about two blocks from the bluffs, said she appreciated the open house.
“I never found the work objectionable once I knew what they were doing, “ she said. “The first time I felt this thumping and I thought it was my heart valve.
“Something’s got to be done sooner rather than later,” she said. “Now that I know what’s going on I won’t have a panic attack.”
“Most people understand we have to keep the track bed stable,” Wade said.
The $4.8 million project is being funded with state and federal grants. Work will involve installing steel reinforcement beams into 36-inch diameter holes, which will then be backfilled with concrete. Tie backs will also be installed at some locations.
Architecturally enhanced pile caps will be added. Ramon said the same contractor that did the work in 2007 is being used for this project.
“We had a good amount of success with them and the work is very similar,” he said. Ramon also said he was pleased with attendance at the open house.
“I’m glad to see community interest in what we’re doing.” he said. Once complete, the stabilization is designed to provide support for about 20 years.