SANDAG is working to add approximately three miles of second main track to the San Diego region’s coastal rail corridor between the Sorrento Valley Station and Miramar Road in the City of San Diego (collectively, “Project”). The Project is being designed and constructed in two phases. The first phase, now complete, added a mile of double track and replaced an aging wooden trestle bridge south of the Sorrento Valley COASTER station. SANDAG has now initiated the second Project phase (Phase 2), which would complete the Project.
Phase 2 includes constructing the remaining two miles of new second mainline track, parallel to the existing track, from east of Interstate 805 (I-805) to the “Miramar Wye,” a spur track junction just south of Miramar Road. The North County Transit District (NCTD), Amtrak, and Burlington Northern and Santa Fe Railway (BNSF) operate on this segment of the LOSSAN Corridor.
The existing portion of single track causes a significant bottleneck to rail traffic, creating train “meets” which forces one train to wait on a siding track until the opposing train passes. Additionally, this section of track is one of the slowest, steepest, and sharpest curve territories of any segment on the LOSSAN Corridor, where speeds are restricted to 25-mph for passenger trains and 20-mph for freight. Adding a second track would substantially increase schedule reliability, enhance operational flexibility, increase capacity, and allow for improved maintenance cycles. The existing sharp radius curves would be realigned with longer radius curves to increase the design speed for intercity and commuter trains from 25-mph to 40-mph. Freight trains would still be speed limited to 25-mph due to downhill braking restrictions. However, making this rail corridor more efficient will not only help improve travel times and accommodate existing train volumes, but also meet future demand for intercity, commuter, and freight services.
Phase 2 is located within existing San Diego Metropolitan System (MTS) railroad right-of-way (ROW) between Mile Post (MP) 251 and MP 253, and would require soil excavation and deposition within and outside of the ROW. Proposed improvements include large earthwork cuts, significant drainage improvements, retaining walls, railroad signal improvements and pier protection wall improvements for the Miramar Road Overpass columns. All cut retaining walls would receive an architectural “rockscape” finish and concrete staining to blend in with the surrounding hillsides.
Phase 2 would add approximately 11,860 linear feet (2.25 miles) of new second track and reduce the existing steep curves within the alignment. New and/or larger cuts and fills would be created along the existing alignment to allow the existing curves to be reduced. Eight walls of varying types, including soldier piles with lagging and tie-backs, cast-in-place walls, soil nail walls, and free-standing pier protection walls, would be constructed to support new cuts and fills, and to protect Miramar Road. The walls would vary between 130 to 1,432 feet long and up to 142 feet high. Phase 2 does not include any bridge structures.
The double-tracking of the Sorrento to Miramar stretch of the LOSSAN Rail Corridor has been contemplated since the late 1980s. In 1989, NCTD certified an Environmental Impact Report (“EIR”) for the Oceanside-San Diego Commuter Rail Project, which analyzed the purchase of right-of-way, the beginning of Coaster service, and the construction of additional improvements, including stations and track improvements. The 1989 EIR also analyzed an alternative alignment for double-tracking within the existing rail right-of-way. In 2000, SANDAG certified the 2020 Regional Transportation Plan EIR, which proposed double-tracking the LOSSAN corridor from Oceanside to San Diego.
In 2009, the FRA and the California Department of Transportation (“Caltrans”) adopted a Program EIR/EIS for the LOSSAN Rail Corridor. The Program EIR/EIS was a Tier 1 environmental review document that evaluated conceptual corridor alignments and station options for improvements of the entire LOSSAN rail corridor.
The FRA prepared an Environmental Assessment (“EA”) for Phase 2 and adopted a Finding of No Significant Impact (“FONSI”) under NEPA in May 2018.
Current plans, both at the regional and corridor wide level, call for the level of service for intercity and commuter passenger and freight rail services to double in this segment by 2030, from a current average of 50 trains per weekday to 101 trains per weekday in 2030. Double-tracking of the Sorrento to Miramar portion of the LOSSAN Rail Corridor is also necessary to meet those service goals. Specifically, the California State Rail Plan identifies the programs and policies needed for the state’s rail program to play a key role in meeting current and future intercity travel demand. Capacity improvements in the San Diego portion of the Pacific Surfliner passenger corridor are an important component of the plan. Furthermore, SANDAG’s 2021 Regional Plan (Regional Plan) identifies an improved LOSSAN Rail Corridor as a major transportation goal, calling for bridge replacements, double tracking, and station improvements needed to provide additional passenger rail service as an alternative to driving the busy Interstate 5 (I-5) corridor. Double tracking this segment of rail, together with other double track projects planned as part of the Regional Plan, are essential elements needed to meet this demand.