Bluff Collapses in Del Mar Could be Dangerous for Trains: Neighbors

Cliff collapses in Del Mar are happening more and more frequently. One that happened over the weekend is the second in just two weeks and neighbors say it’s urgent to move the train tracks.

“It's really unfortunate, it's just more evidence we need to get these trains off the bluffs,” says Del Mar resident Frank Altobello.

Last weekend’s collapse on 9th Street was just two blocks away from the larger one on 11th Street.

Neighbor Debbie Hecht calls the situation “alarming.” “When you think about in the 1940s, a train derailed and killed people you know and I see this like imminent.

A freight train derailed as it was traveling north through Del Mar on New Year’s Eve 194o following heavy rains. Three railroad workers were killed. There were no passengers on the train.

“Think of those trains going by 20 to 30 times a day. It's disconcerting,” Altobello says.

The North County Transit District says it is working with SANDAG on a project to move the tracks underground, but that would cost billions of dollars and the project remains unfunded.

“Well, if there's an accident and lives are lost, my sense is the funding will be found,” Altobello adds grimly.

The NCTD says it also plans to put up fencing to improve safety near the tracks. They say the fencing would lessen foot traffic and help stabilize the bluff.

In a statement, they said in part: "The safety of our customers, operators and the public is our top priority. The ongoing work to ensure these bluffs are stabilized for future years ranks very high on our state of good repair needs."

But neighbors say they don't want a fence and doubt it will stop the bluffs from collapsing.

Neighbor Frank Stonebanks is one of those not convinced. “It's going to take a lot of money probably two to three billion dollars and some strong leadership, but fencing off two miles of track and handing out tickets doesn't cut it."

The NCTD say it does special inspections of the rail line any time there is a significant bluff collapse and lifeguards have placed more signs in the area warning people to stay away from the latest collapse area.

“When [collapses] come in increasing frequency and increasing size I think even someone who is not an expert in that area could sort of conclude that that is becoming more and more of a problem and fencing off the train track isn’t going to solve the problem,” Stonebanks adds.

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