State awards $106 million for San Diego County rail projects

Workers repair the site of a bluff collapse next to the railroad tracks in Del Mar after heavy rains in November 2019.
(The Union-Tribune)

Grant includes $36 million for future phases of Del Mar bluff stabilization


The California Transportation Commission has allocated $106 million for San Diego County rail projects, including $36 million for future phases of the ongoing efforts to stabilize the Del Mar bluffs.

Work is underway on the fourth phase of a six-part effort begun in 2003 to shore up the 1.7-mile stretch of eroding coastal cliffs. The current construction, budgeted at $5.8 million, includes repairing and replacing a concrete storm-water channel and other drainage structures and installing more concrete-and-steel support columns.

For the record:

12:12 p.m. Dec. 12, 2020

This article has been corrected to say that the construction project near the Del Mar Fairgrounds will be a parallel second set of tracks between the Solana Beach train station and the fairgrounds.

Planning is underway for the fifth phase, expected to cost $70 million, which will include more support columns and drainage structures, seismic reinforcement, and sea walls.

Other rail projects that will benefit from the state grant funding include construction of the first Coaster passenger platform at the San Diego Convention Center, construction of a parallel second set of tracks called double tracking between the Solana Beach train station and the Del Mar Fairgrounds, and corridor improvements on the route through Camp Pendleton

“We are excited and grateful to the California Transportation Commission for selecting the region’s grant application for funding,” said North County Transit District chair and Encinitas Councilman Tony Kranz in a news release from the district Monday, Dec. 7.

“The funding will support ... projects that will increase transit ridership and rail freight movement,” Kranz said. “These projects will also create local jobs and help boost our economy, which has been ravaged by the COVID-19 pandemic.”

The coastal rail corridor between Los Angeles, San Diego and San Luis Obispo, typically called LOSSAN, carried $1 billion in freight and more than 8 million passengers in 2019.

“This funding is critical to SANDAG’s goal of improving the speed, capacity and safety of rail service along the second busiest rail corridor in the nation,” said Poway Mayor Steve Vaus, chairman of the San Diego Association of Governments board.

“SANDAG remains fully committed to securing the bluffs in the short-term and identifying a feasible long-term solution for the corridor,” Vaus said in the transit district’s news release.

The most likely long-term solution appears to be rebuilding the Del Mar section of the tracks on a new inland route through tunnels beneath the city. That project is decades away and will cost several billion dollars.

— Phil Diehl is a reporter for The San Diego Union-Tribune