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Marblehead Project, Rail Idea May Clash

A tunnel that could run under the San Clemente venture might force a new look at its permits.

May 28, 2003|Stanley Allison | Times Staff Writer

The California High Speed Rail Authority on Tuesday axed one controversial plan to add tracks along the coast in South County, but left in place a little-known option that could jeopardize the Marblehead bluff-top development in San Clemente.

Authority members rejected a proposal that would have laid twin tracks along the coast in San Clemente, Dana Point and through some historic portions of San Juan Capistrano, a plan that had drawn considerable opposition from city officials, residents and environmental groups.

They kept in play a plan to tunnel beneath Marblehead, a development that just recently won approval from the California Coastal Commission after four years of hearings, considerable downsizing and agreements to mitigate environmental impacts.

Local officials and the developer questioned whether such a plan would require a new round of studies and more approvals from the coastal agency. But Dan Leavitt, deputy director of the rail authority, has said the tunnel proposal would not necessarily require any changes to the development plan.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Wednesday July 02, 2003 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 1 inches; 52 words Type of Material: Correction
Railroad tunnel -- A map that ran in the California section of the Orange County Edition on May 28 showed the route of a proposed railroad tunnel under the Marblehead development too far to the north. The correct route is shown in a map on page B3 of today's Orange County Edition.
For The Record
Los Angeles Times Wednesday July 02, 2003 Orange County Edition California Part B Page 3 1 inches; 39 words Type of Material: Correction
Railroad tunnel-A map that ran in the California section of the Orange County edition May 28 showed the route of a proposed railroad tunnel under the Marblehead development too far to the north. The correct route is shown below.

That did little to reassure the builder. "This is ridiculous," said Jim Johnson, chairman of the Lusk Co., which is developing Marblehead, a 250-acre residential, commercial and open-space project on a bluff at the north end of San Clemente. "Two state agencies don't even talk" to each other.

The tunnel option would be part of a six-mile route crossing under Interstate 5, and is one of several options still being considered.

The proposal is part of a larger blueprint for improving rail service across California, Leavitt said. Officials envision a fleet of trains crisscrossing the state at more than 100 mph, at a cost of more than $25 billion.

To build a high-speed line through the heavily traveled San Diego-to-Los Angeles corridor, authority officials had said double-tracking would be required along the existing rail line, including through sensitive areas of San Clemente, Dana Point and San Juan Capistrano.

The high-speed rail authority staff recently concluded that construction through San Juan Capistrano would damage historic buildings and disrupt downtown businesses for as long as three years. Mehdi Morshed, the authority's executive director, said his staff also determined there isn't enough room to add tracks along San Clemente's narrow shoreline.

At Tuesday's meeting of the authority in Irvine, the mayors of San Clemente, Dana Point and San Juan Capistrano also urged the panel to reject the tunnel option under Marblehead.

But Morshed said the option needs further study. Johnson said he was disappointed the authority was considering tunneling beneath his project, but said he expects the panel eventually will abandon the proposal.

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