By Noel T. Braymer
One thing is true, getting better rail passenger service takes time. Part of that is it takes time to round up the funding to buy new equipment and for new construction. And sometimes one or two problems can delay other projects. But years of proposals are finally getting ready to go into service over the next ten years or so. Here is a look of what we can expect.
A simple example of this has been the creation of 5 “Quiet Zone Grade Crossings” in Oceanside on the “Surf Line” between Los Angeles and San Diego. The City of Oceanside approved construction of these 5 upgraded crossings in February 2017. They were suppose to be in service by Spring 2019. While the construction of these upgraded grade crossings was completed months ago, trains are still blowing their horns before going through these crossings. To find out what was going on I got on line and did some research. This is what I found.
Railroad Safety Improvements (CIP Project # CIP14-00013) is currently under construction. City of Oceanside
The Railroad Safety Improvements per the Plans and Specifications approved by City Council in February 2017 were completed in spring 2019. The completed Railroad Crossing Safety Improvements were necessary for a Quiet Zone. The Quiet Zone reduces but does not eliminate the need for the blowing of train horns; that is determined by the train engineer and NCTD policy. This summer, the City sent 60-day Notice of Establishment (NOE) the Quiet Zone to NCTD (owner), FRA and CPUC (regulatory agencies) upon the completion of the work. The notice prompted a review of the completed improvements by the FRA and CPUC but resulted in additional improvements required by the regulatory agencies. Given the additional work and a requirement for a second NOE, staff anticipates implementation of the Quiet Zone in February 2020.
Project Manager: Gary Kellison Retired at the end of October 2019. The Project Management has been assigned to David Toschak,”
Well the good news is it looks like the Quiet Zones will be “Quiet” this month. But the problem had more to do with paperwork, than with construction.
Another project not far from Oceanside are plans to replace a 100 year old rail bridge over the San Juan Creek at the southeast border of San Juan Capistrano. This project has been in the works for some time, but doesn’t get a lot of media coverage. One of the problems with this bridge is a replacement bridge has to be finished before the old bridge is removed. There is also the problem that a bike path on a bank of the creek will have to be rerouted during construction of the new rail bridge and when the old bridge is removed. The Southern California Regional Rail Authority which is the proper name for Metrolink is responsible repair and construction for this new bridge and many other rail segments used by Metrolink.
“CEQA-California Environmental Quality Act
The purpose of the proposed bridge replacement project is to replace the existing single track bridge over San Juan Creek with a new single track bridge to increase safety and reduce maintenance needs by increasing the load rating and the foundation depths. The new bridge will be constructed next to the existing bridge in order to maintain service on the existing bridge until the new bridge is in place; as a result a new single track bridge over the Vereda bike path is also required. In In addition to the new San Juan Creek Bridge and bike path bridge, the following will require modifications; the siding track, a set-out track, communications and signal systems, and other support infrastructure located within the project right-of-way as required. The existing bridge will be removed and the substructure for a future second bridge across the San Juan Creek channel will be constructed.”
Well the good news is there are plans to have 2 single track bridges over the San Juan Creek which will extend double tracking from Serra Siding into a second track in part of San Juan Capistrano . There will be a short segment of single track at the San Juan Capistrano Station. But once past the north end of the station there will be double tracking between San Juan Capistrano and Laguna Niguel which is now under construction. This will create mostly double tracking between San Juan Capistrano to Fullerton which is most of the length of Orange County. Between Fullerton and Los Angeles the railroad is now triple tracked, with a fourth track planned in the future.
“Railroad Bridge Replacement over San Juan Creek
The Southern California Regional Rail Authority in partnership with the Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA) is planning to replace the 100 year old railroad bridge over San Juan Creek near the southeast corner of the City’s Groundwater Recovery Plant and to the east of Descanco Park. The current bridge is in need of repair due to its age and condition. The existing bridge will remain in place until a new bridge just to the west is constructed.
During construction of the new bridge, it will be necessary to close the existing bikeway that extends east of the I-5 Freeway to the trail along San Juan Creek, which is anticipated to occur June 2022 through December 2024. To provide a continuous bikeway during construction, a detour will be installed. The detour will be begin on Avenida Padre, continue on Camino Capistrano, turn left on Del Obispo Street, enter the Trabuco Creek trail levee, and then continue south.”
Even this project will take years yet to get build with the planning and design work that needs to be done first. Just in Southern California there are other similar projects being planned and waiting for funding. Still, we’ve come a long way over the roughly 40 years of progress made in California expanding and improving rail service infrastructure.But we also have much more still to build.
The following is from the Metrolink Website with details of construction projects underway and being planned in the near future.