California Courier

Will Mike Levin Ever Fix the Dangerous Coaster Railroad Tracks?

Despite Promises and High-Profile Visits, Progress on San Diego’s Rail Infrastructure Remains Stagnant.

Nearly a year after U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg’s visit to San Diego’s COASTER rail, the promised improvements by Rep. Mike Levin and safety measures for the deteriorating Del Mar bluffs have seen no significant advancement. The visit, aimed to showcase the urgent need for federal funding to relocate the tracks, a critical step in ensuring the safety and efficiency of the 351-mile LOSSAN (Los Angeles-San Luis Obispo-San Diego) Rail Corridor.

During the much-publicized tour, which started from San Diego’s Old Town Transit Center and concluded at the Solana Beach station, Buttigieg, alongside Levin, Senator Toni Atkins, and various local and regional leaders, witnessed firsthand the precarious state of the railway along the failing bluffs. Despite Buttigieg’s acknowledgment of the urgency and his comment on the government needing to adapt its timetables to meet the demands of the project, there has been a concerning lack of action.

In early 2023, the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG) received a substantial $300 million in state funds. These funds were earmarked for the preliminary stages of the rail relocation project. However, with an estimated $4 billion needed for the complete relocation and construction, including the proposal for an underground tunnel in Del Mar, the project is at a standstill. Levin’s assurances of securing additional funds from President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill, which allocates $110 billion for major infrastructure projects, have yet to materialize into tangible results.

This inaction is particularly concerning given the history of erosion and bluff failures that have plagued the railway, leading to various closures and posing a significant risk to public safety. The most recent interruption being the suspension of service on the Amtrak Surfliner and Metrolink trains between Orange and San Diego counties, which has lasted from late September through December, due to ongoing safety concerns.

Levin’s role in advocating for the necessary funding has come under scrutiny. Despite his initial efforts in bringing federal attention to the issue, the lack of progress raises questions about his effectiveness in delivering on his promises. As the community continues to face the risks associated with the aging rail infrastructure, the need for action is more pressing than ever. The spotlight once again turns to Levin and his ability to navigate the complexities of securing federal funding and expediting the project to safeguard the well-being of the region’s residents and commuters.

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