Press Release

Sen. Blakespear Introduces Legislation to Revitalize Southern California Rail

SB 1098 follows up on the work of the LOSSAN subcommittee to improve management and support of the 351-mile rail line 

SACRAMENTO – Sen. Catherine Blakespear, D-Encinitas, introduced legislation on Tuesday to revitalize the rail corridor that runs from San Diego through six Southern California counties to San Luis Obispo and provide stronger management, support and direction for the line to optimize passenger service.

SB 1098 follows on the work of the Senate Transportation Subcommittee on LOSSAN Rail Corridor Resiliency, which Sen. Blakespear chairs. The subcommittee has spent the last year investigating the line and its needs. At the subcommittee’s last hearing in December, the Senate Office of Research presented a report detailing the challenges of managing the line. The new legislation addresses many of the issues raised in the report.

“To have passenger rail service completely shut down in one portion, as it is now in San Clemente, due to an unstable hillside is unacceptable,” Sen. Blakespear said. “Interruptions to  service have become commonplace in recent years, and that has hurt ridership. It is time to get ahead of the curve, plan for the future and turn the rail corridor into the highly efficient and reliable mover of goods and people it was designed to be. SB 1098 puts us on track to do that.”

The legislation is co-authored by Sens. Ben Allen, D-Santa Monica; Monique Limón, D-Santa Barbara; Josh Newman, D-Fullerton; Tom Umberg, D-Santa Ana; and Assemblymembers Laurie Davies, R-Laguna Niguel; Diane Dixon, R-Newport Beach; and Gregg Hart, D-Santa Barbara. 

“It’s clear at this point that there must be a more active effort at the state level in shaping the LOSSAN Rail Corridor’s future,” Sen. Newman said. “Such an effort must also consider the extensive work of our local partners, including those at the Orange County Transportation Authority and the San Diego Association of Governments. I believe today’s proposal manages to find that balance, and I’d like to thank Senator Blakespear for taking the time to make sure we get this right.”

Climate change is challenging railroads and their infrastructure around the world, the New York Times reported last September. There has been growing concern in recent years over the LOSSAN Rail Corridor’s vulnerability. Unstable bluffs or hillsides and coastal erosion have resulted in prolonged shutdowns to rail service in Orange and San Diego counties five times over the last three years.

The rail line has been closed continuously for the last 2.5 weeks at San Clemente, and there is currently no stated date when it will reopen. According to the website “Can I Take the Train to LA Today?” by the group RideSD, the answer is NOPE, and it’s been offline more than half of the time in last year and a half.

Hearings held by the Senate LOSSAN subcommittee in 2023 highlighted the importance of the rail line, which is the nation’s second-busiest rail corridor, and the problems it is confronting across Southern California. Ridership has declined from 8 million a year before the pandemic to about 4 million a year today.

A Los Angeles Times editorial last week encouraged the state to take bolder action. “It’s time for Californians and transportation officials to face the inevitable reality: Saving the coastal line means moving it away from the unstable land of the ocean’s edge,” the Times said.

SB 1098 has three main elements. It would:

  • Direct the California State Transportation Agency (CalSTA) to create a clear list of prioritized capacity and resiliency projects along the corridor, and recommend any changes to state policies. 
  • Direct the four metropolitan planning organizations in the corridor to create a locally driven plan that creates a clear path forward for management, governance and operations that results in improved services along the corridor. Those organizations are the San Luis Obispo Council of Governments, Santa Barbara County Association of Governments, Southern California Association of Governments and San Diego Association of Governments. 
  • Clarify the role of the state secretary of transportation to manage and lead stakeholders to support the LOSSAN corridor.

“Maximizing rail is an important part of the state’s transportation strategy in the 21st century to lower greenhouse gas emissions, reduce freeway congesion and move large numbers of people efficiently and comfortably,” Blakespear said. “We need to take the next step in planning, organization and leadership to ensure we can meet this goal.” 

Last year, Sen. Blakespear authored SB 677, which was signed into law. It directs the LOSSAN Rail Corridor Agency – which oversees the corridor in coordination with rail owners, operators and planning agencies – to include an assessment of the effects of climate change in its annual business plan that outlines the agency’s major goals and objectives. The assessment must also identify projects to increase climate resiliency and funding options for those projects.

Elected in 2022, Sen. Blakespear represents Senate District 38, which covers northern San Diego County and part of Orange County. To learn more about the district and Sen. Blakespear, visit her Senate website.