Pro/Con: Del Mar train track relocation


The San Diego Association of Governments is advancing the proposal to relocate the LOSSAN Corridor train tracks off the eroding Del Mar bluffs to an underground tunnel. The train tunnel alternative is a crucial change that must be implemented promptly for passenger safety and efficiency.

Estimated to cost between $2.5 and $4 billion and be completed in 2035 at the earliest, SANDAG’s plan will move 1.7 miles of the Del Mar coastal tracks a mile inland and 80 feet underground. SANDAG conducted conceptual studies on possible tunnel routes in 2017 and have been moving the plan forward since then. While construction funding and exact routes have not been finalized, a $300 million state grant was obtained last year to advance the relocation, accelerating SANDAG’s plan at a time when fast action is crucial.

Common concerns among residents when it comes to having a tunnel beneath their homes are noise and vibration, especially from ventilation systems and in areas close to the tunnel entrances and exits.

However, SANDAG tunnel experts say the depth of the tunnels will prevent such noise, obscuring any evidence of the rail from residential areas, according to Fox 5 News.

The cliffs along the Del Mar coastline have a history of landslides and accidents due to bluff collapses. SANDAG reported perceived concerns of bluff erosion and rising sea levels due to climate change that pose a threat to Del Mar railroad operations. The Del Mar bluffs retreated an average of 20 centimeters last winter — which is nearly twice as much as in a typical year — according to the City of Del Mar. The train tracks, currently stationed merely one foot from the cliff edge, substantially threaten public safety; hence, relocating the tracks into an underground tunnel is the optimal solution to ensuring a stable transportation system.

Another focus of the SANDAG project is to improve the efficiency of the railway by double tracking the corridor — adding a second track to provide one for both directions — from Orange County to downtown San Diego. The 351-mile LOSSAN Corridor, connecting major metropolitan areas from San Luis Obispo to San Diego, is the second busiest intercity passenger rail corridor in the nation, carrying eight million passengers and $1 billion worth of goods annually, according to SANDAG. Those railways are essential to San Diego residents, especially in a relatively suburban area like Del Mar where public transportation is limited. A double track system enhances safety and reliability, increases capacity of the railroads by allowing trains to pass each other at speeds up to 110 miles per hour and reduces travel times and vehicle miles traveled, which in addition to improved efficiency lowers greenhouse gas emissions, according to SANDAG.

Not only will the project enhance the stability of the tracks, but it will also boost efficiency and lessen environmental damage, making the LOSSAN Corridor more convenient to users.

Though SANDAG is currently in a stage of preliminary studies and public outreach, moving forward with this proposal is critical in prioritizing the safety of the railway and its users.


Currently located on eroding bluffs, the Del Mar segment of the LOSSAN Rail Corridor is an integral part of the 351-mile passage from San Luis Obispo to San Diego. This rail corridor — the second busiest in the nation — carries eight million passengers and $1 billion in goods annually, according to the San Diego Association of Governments. However, even as derailments and complications along the route become more common, in part due to bluff instability, SANDAG’s current “solution” to relocate the tracks inland and underground will cause more harm than good.

The proposed relocation places the tracks 80 feet underground and a mile inland in one of two possible locations: under Camino Del Mar or just north of the Jimmy Durante and Camino Del Mar split, according to Del Mar Mayor Tracy Martinez. Having received a $300 million state-sanctioned grant in 2022, SANDAG aims to have finalized plans by 2026.

While this plan reduces the threat of further erosion of the bluffs, it also poses several issues.

Firstly, the entrance and exit of the suggested tunnel detailed by Martinez are in residential areas, prompting questions of how the train will affect neighborhoods. Unless engineers find a way to minimize possible noise and vibrations, the train will inevitably disturb residential life. Del Mar residents will be subject to a changing community and the possibility of diminishing property values. According to the Del Mar Times, a speaker at the Del Mar City Council meeting on July 24 demanded compensation if the value of his home decreased as a result of the relocation.

Although the relocation prevents further complications to the bluffs, the success of the proposed tunnel is dependent on the feasibility of its construction, which is heavily influenced by the soil condition in Del Mar. In an interview with KPBS, Del Mar resident Rev. Paige Blair-Hubert told of overseeing construction of an elevator shaft at St. Peter’s Church in Del Mar, saying she encountered difficulties with the unstable soil and is not convinced the tunnel is the right solution. Digging 80 feet below ground could pose an even greater threat to Del Mar’s foundation than the train tracks. This could be costly for SANDAG and require significantly more money than initially anticipated.

Del Mar and SANDAG officials project the track relocation, estimated to cost $2.5 billion, will require the full implementation of the $300 million grant, leaving future issues related to such a relocation potentially unfunded. Although SANDAG continues to research and engage in community outreach, less disruptive options exist to solve the problem. The train could travel alongside the Del Mar Fairgrounds, completely avoiding residential areas, and continue north of San Dieguito River and south of the race track, as suggested by Del Mar City Council Member Terry Gaasterland.

With the corrider’s safety and productivity at stake, SANDAG must devise a solution that saves the eroding bluffs without disrupting residential Del Mar. Weighing environmental, economic and safety concerns, a solution that preserves both the nature of our coast and the charm of our communities is key. The proposed tunnel is not that solution.

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