OCTA board approves emergency declaration to speed up rail damaged by landslide

Orange County Transportation Authority board members Monday voted to declare an emergency to cut through red tape to constructing a barrier to shore up the sliding hillside in San Clemente that has shut down rail traffic.

"The emergency declaration gives the (OCTA) CEO (Darrell Johnson) authority to approve contracts more than $250,000," Orange County Supervisor Katrina Foley told City News Service.

The emergency declaration is a way to "expedite" the process of hiring a contractor to erect a wall where the hill is sliding to keep debris off the tracks, Foley said.

SUGGESTED: Another landslide in San Clemente stops trains just days after resuming service

The emergency declaration could then be folded into the county's emergency declaration to recoup FEMA funding from storm damage, Foley said.

"We had to do an emergency declaration because we don't have time to go through the bidding process and all that," Foley said, adding there is a sense of urgency to get the rail lines back up and running.

San Clemente officials are meanwhile working to also stabilize the hillside above the track near Casa Romantica Culture Center and Gardens, which has also been affected by the sliding hill.

Officials do not yet know when rail service could return to normal.

"As always, passenger safety will guide every action we take," Johnson said. "We understand how difficult this closure is for the people who rely on rail service through San Clemente and we will work hard to get service running again safely."

The first mudslide near Casa Romantica happened on April 27. Rail service was shut down, but resumed again on May 27, but another mudslide on June 5 compelled another closure.