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When residents and business owners of Capistrano Beach (“Capo Beach”) received a colorful postcard asking for public input on the “Serra Siding” project, most were mystified. Aren’t sidings generally placed in industrial areas where stacked and idling trains would have little negative impact? But the map telegraphed Metrolink’s intention: someone clearly thought the 1-mile stretch between Victoria Blvd and Beach Road along a very popular and heavily eroded public beach was a great spot for a lane. avoidance. This is not the case. In fact, they couldn’t have chosen a worse place. And now residents are wondering if the coating is really necessary. Here are some of the main issues:
- Metrolink ridership has been stable or declining since 2010. A corridor that once used 53 Metrolink and Amtrak passenger trains, now operates 26, less than half of 2015-2019 volume.
- Metrolink’s current 14 trains carry an average of 276 passengers per weekday, or about 3% of actual capacity. It’s hard to believe that additional cars are needed, let alone whole trains or a siding. Even with a population increase projected over 20 years, there will be no bottlenecks in South County and existing trains will not be nearly full.
- Work from home trends will undoubtedly continue at a much faster pace than past commuting practices, offering little hope that ridership will recover anytime soon. Even before the pandemic, Metrolink’s ridership was stable between 2011 and 2019, and 2021 is down 82% from 2019. If they didn’t need siding ten years ago, why do they think they need it now?
- If there are other reasons for more sidings, these have not been shared with the public. And if it was justified, Metrolink could not have chosen a more damaging location.
- OCTA Climate Study admits that the 9-mile coastal alignment that runs from San Juan Capistrano to San Onofre will be in big trouble in 20 years or less due to rising sea levels and rapid erosion.
- 6 hotels (soon to be 7) face the construction zone across the Pacific Coast Highway – hotels that suffered significant losses during the pandemic and will now face a two-year construction period over the course of which the quiet zone will be suspended. Tourists do not choose hotels blown up by train horns; and the cities that host them lose transitional occupancy taxes.
- Over a million people visit the beaches of Doheny and Capistrano each year. The impact of train horns and heavy construction on the crowds (and their vehicles) on the beach a few meters from the railway right-of-way will deal another economic blow, not to mention the impacts on public health.
- In addition to hotels, many businesses and 7,400 residents of the above palisades will face train horns and a construction zone for two years, then a siding where idling trains will damage coastal views. . The impact on business, sleep cycles, quality of life and public opinion will be severe, both during and after construction.
Officials from Metrolink and OCTA, which owns the right of way and is responsible for public outreach for the project, were dismayed when letters of comment poured in – so many that they extended the outreach period. from the public twice, first until May 31.st, then until July 31st. Residents were frustrated with the lack of answers to key questions.
Where is the local needs assessment? As Metrolink trots the Lossan’s service development plan Like its “needs assessment,” residents complain that the projections are seriously out of date, relying on Moody’s demographic projections for 2011 that were far from today’s reality. No public workshops for the 2013 plan were held in Orange County. When Voice of OC published an article on the project, Metrolink officials said the siding would prevent delays and reduce train idling in the area, but locals can attest that it doesn’t There are no delays, no idling and South County trains are regularly near empty.
Why was an industrial zone immediately to the north not considered for the coating? Over 2.2 miles of double track exists directly north of the proposed site. These could be linked to more double chases from San Juan Capistrano with almost no impact. In fact, OCTA has already approved funds to replace a railroad bridge over San Juan Creek, including providing a base for a future double track. If the siding is indeed necessary, why would Metrolink choose a highly sensitive visitor service area over this low impact industrial area that runs parallel to Highway 5?
Why would anyone add $ 50 million in long-term infrastructure along one of the most eroded beaches in Orange County? Doheny Beach closed its south parking lot 3 years ago as chunks of asphalt started and continued to erode in the waves. At Capistrano Beach, a basketball court, restrooms, sidewalks and 80 parking spaces have been lost to crashing waves over the past two years. This month, OC Public Works crews are bulldozing and stacking huge sand cubes at Capo Beach in an effort to save part of a long coastal path in a state that has been repeatedly threatened. by high tides and coastal waves. The trail is about 30 feet from the OCTA right-of-way, part of a nine-mile coastal alignment mentioned in OCTA’s own climate report as an endangered stretch that the Coast Commission wish to move inland. Three miles to the south, San Clemente Tracks is near a similar eroding shoreline where recent photos have captured waves hitting a train as it rounded the tight bend at Cotton Point. The climate report estimates that the adjacent promontory of Mariposa, where a severe landslide and runway closure occurred last year, will be in serious trouble as early as 2040, in less than twenty years.
Why would someone spend $ 50 million in public money on new infrastructure here, especially since it doesn’t seem necessary?
Toni Nelson is a retired CPA and founder of the community non-profit organization Capo Cares, an advocacy group for the community of Capistrano Beach in the town of Dana Point. Since 2014, Capo Cares has been following issues of interest to community members, such as coastal erosion, beautification, public health and safety, local politics, and artistic and cultural events. The group informs the community through periodic newsletters and daily posts on www.Facebook.com/capocares. Nelson writes frequently on topics related to coastal erosion as a community contributor to www.patch.com/lagunaniguel-danapoint and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
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