TUNNEL TUNEUP CHATSWORTH RAIL UPGRADED.
SIMI VALLEY - Crews working around the clock are on scheduled to shore up a 94-year-old Metrolink tunnel in a project that officials say will benefit both Los Angeles and Ventura counties.
Repairs on the Chatsworth Tunnel - built in 1906 and used by commuter and freight trains - began Saturday and have shut down all rail service between Chatsworth and Simi Valley. Metrolink is providing some 800 riders with shuttle bus service between stations and discounted monthly passes.
``Both Ventura County and Los Angeles County will be tremendous beneficiaries of this project,'' Francine Oschin, of Los Angeles City Councilman Hal Bernson's Office, said Monday.
Construction is scheduled to be completed on Oct. 14.
Over the years, moisture in the tunnel under the Santa Susana Mountains has softened the roadbed and required slowing trains to as little as 10 mph.
Workers have ripped out all of the old railroad tracks and ties, and are in the process of excavating the roadbed, officials said. Almost 6,500 tons of rock and dirt will be replaced in the tunnel before new tracks are laid down.
Workers will also install fiber-optic lines, making communication with trains in the tunnel possible for the first time.
``I don't want to say that we are ahead of schedule,'' said project engineer Joe Thompson, ``because a project like this could fall apart at any moment.''
At 1 1/2 miles, the 16-foot-wide tunnel is the longest in the Metrolink system. The excavation is moving at a pace of about 2,000 feet every 10 hours.
The tunnel has a colorful, tragic history. In 1936, an entire train crew perished when their engine stalled and used up all of the oxygen in the tunnel. The tunnel also is directly beneath the Spahn Ranch, which gained notoriety in the 1960s as the home of murderer Charles Manson and his followers.
With construction scheduled to be completed Oct. 14, crews have been working around the clock on the 94-year-old Chatsworth Tunnel, the longest in the Metrolink system.
Phil McCarten/Staff Photographer