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The Orange County Transportation Authority and Metrolink removes soil and debris from the bottom of the slope above the closed rail line in San Clemente on Feb. 15. Passenger service has been closed since Jan. 24 due to a landslide. Courtesy OCTA
The Orange County Transportation Authority and Metrolink removes soil and debris from the bottom of the slope above the closed rail line in San Clemente on Feb. 15. Passenger service has been closed since Jan. 24 due to a landslide. Courtesy OCTA
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Blakespear introduces legislation for coordinated rail revitalization

SACRAMENTO — State Sen. Catherine Blakespear announced new legislation Tuesday to revitalize the 351-mile LOSSAN Rail Corridor via a more coordinated response between state and local leaders. 

In the absence of strong state leadership to address issues with rail, the proposed Senate Bill 1098 tasks the California State Transportation Agency (CalSTA) and the State Secretary of Transportation to lead this process with the support of regional agencies. 

Specifically, the legislation requires CalSTA to create a clear list of prioritized projects along the corridor and recommendations for needed policy changes. The proposed bill also clarifies the role of the State Secretary of Transportation, which is to manage and lead stakeholders to support the corridor. 

The bill also directs four metropolitan planning organizations along the corridor — SANDAG, the San Luis Obispo Council of Governments, Santa Barbara County Association of Governments, and Southern California Association of Governments — to recommend legislative changes to facilitate better management and governance.

“The bill we’ve introduced today takes our request for state leadership and aligns it with a locally-driven process to coordinate a response. The success of the corridor relies on both state and local action, and this bill accomplishes that goal,” said Blakespear, D-Encinitas.

Blakespear’s announcement at the State Capitol comes as the LOSSAN (Los Angeles-San Luis Obispo-San Diego) corridor enters its third week of closure between San Diego and Orange counties due to a landslide in San Clemente, with no confirmed reopening date.

Caltrans issued an emergency declaration for the landslide on Feb. 1. On Thursday, the Orange County Transportation Authority continued working with the California Transit Commission to confirm funding for a retaining wall with the rain-saturated slope moving toward the rail.

Leaders said this is the fifth rail closure in San Clemente in the past two years, illustrating an untenable situation for the corridor. 

“We cannot accept that track closures and service disruptions are a regular part of operating rail service in Southern California,” Blakespear said.  

The bill follows up on the work completed by the Senate Transportation Subcommittee on LOSSAN Rail Corridor Resiliency, chaired by Blakespear, over the past year. 

The bipartisan bill is co-authored by Sens. Ben Allen (D-Santa Monica), Monique Limón (D-Santa Barbara), Josh Newman (D-Fullerton), Tom Umberg (D-Santa Ana), and Assemblymembers Laurie Davies (R-Laguna Niguel), Diane Dixon (R-Newport Beach) and Gregg Hart (D-Santa Barbara). 

“It’s clear at this point that there must be a more active effort at the state level in shaping the LOSSAN corridor’s future,” Newman said. “If we hope to get more people out of their cars and onto our trains, we need to build a faster, more frequent and more reliable rail corridor, one that doesn’t close in the face of extreme weather and where delays and repairs are the exception rather than the norm.” 

While passenger service continues to be closed between San Diego and Orange counties, BNSF freight service can resume at 10 mph. 

In late January, the LOSSAN corridor was also added to the federal Corridor Identification and Development (ID) program, which facilitates identifying projects for strategically important rail corridors nationwide.

The corridor saw an estimated ridership of around 4 million passengers in 2023, less than half of pre-pandemic levels. 

1 comment

steve333 February 19, 2024 at 3:13 pm

Blakespear loves having the State tell Cities what to do, because her mentor Toni Atkins told her so.
Anything associated with Blakespear is suspect and it’s time to put an end to the Blakespear Machine.

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