Del Mar bluff collapse leads to renewed calls to move train tracks

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DEL MAR, Calif. — A major bluff failure just south of 4th Street this weekend has led to renewed calls for government officials to move the train tracks inland.

“We’ve had bluff collapses where people got hurt,” Del Mar resident Jim Smith said. “I think about these train tracks, and they have to move.”

The collapse on Sunday has forced the trains to roll by at a crawl as engineers take measurements, attempting to assess the damage. Experts say between the ocean waves battering the cliffs and homeowners’ irrigation systems leaking into the soil, the bluff collapses are becoming more normal.

“One of the studies that was done is that there is 100 inches of rain coming down basically, and we know we only get 7 to 12 inches every year. So, this water that is coming off, basically, is just destabilizing the bluffs very quickly,” Dave Drukker, a Del Mar city council member, said.

An August 2019 collapse at Grandview Surf Beach in Encinitas claimed the lives of three people. Family members announced a lawsuit last fall and have called on legislators to support a bill aimed at preventing future coastal bluff collapses.

Transit authorities have been working for years to stabilize bluffs in Del Mar and elsewhere in the county. Officials highlighted in January the completion of phase 4 of a six-phase project with phase 5 expected to start next year.

Scripps researchers have been working for the past two days to gather more information on the stability of the cliffs after Sunday’s collapse. Beachgoers are being warned to stay away from the bluffs.

“Plan our time on the beaches, on how low the tide is, so we can spend our time on the beaches when we are not below the bluffs,” Laura Walsh, a spokesperson for the Surfrider Foundation said.

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