Coast Rail Coordinating Committee

Reported by Paul Dyson — For the benefit of new readers, the CRCC exists to coordinate activities of the various regional governments who are attempting to expand rail passenger service on the coast route between Los Angeles and San Francisco.

The meeting was rather poorly attended, Pete Rodgers of SLOCOG, Mike Powers of SBCAG, Eric Schatmeier, Caltrans Rail, Noelia Chapa and Issy Rodriguez from the City of Soledad, Christina Watson from TAMC (Monterey County) Liz O’Donohue from Amtrak and myself. Pete Rodgers does an outstanding job of putting the minutes and agenda package together.

Key issues discussed at the meeting were:

  1. The need for resolutions of support from member agencies and interested parties calling for an allocation of state funds for capital and operating needs for a start up of the “Coast Daylight” in 2007.
  2. Meeting with Union Pacific to discuss capacity issues, and specifically the results of the capacity analysis requested by Union Pacific. I quote from the UP’s Jerry Wilmoth’s statements as reported by Pete Rodgers:
    • UP resources are thin and there is reluctance to put any time or money on the Coast Route work unless funding is forthcoming.
    • Wilmoth does not believe the projects listed are necessarily the right choices.
    • UP believes that once funding is available it would be good to run the model again.
    • Is Caltrain agreeable to running the train up the Peninsula?

    UP also raised concern about the effects of inflation on construction costs, but did say that probably one more train would not have too much impact but additional trains would.

  3. Liz O’Donohue gave her usual professional summary of funding activities at the federal level, an update on new equipment procurement and a ridership and revenue update. The Lott/Lautenberg Bill, S1516, is still alive and represents one of the best prospects for funding California projects, as it offers federal funds with state matching 20%. Since California already has a state rail program with funding in place we are best placed to take early advantage of this program. Caltrans Rail should soon complete their updating of the specifications for the new Surfliner/California car, drawing on the operating and customer experience of the existing fleet. When I asked about the 41 Amfleet I cars (19 cafe cars and 22 coaches)in dead storage at Bear Shops in Wilmington, Delaware that could be used to augment service here in the West, and for Santa Barbara service particularly, she replied that the condition is being assessed. She thought that they were being considered for new service in Illinois.
  4. Eric Schatmeier of Caltrans Rail reported on the expansion of rail bus services including a new night bus between Oakland/San Francisco and Santa Barbara to connect with first and last trains. Unfortunately these buses are still restricted to passengers whose journeys include a rail component.

The following addendum was written by RailPAC Director, Dennis Story, from Santa Barbara (dstory@railpac.org):

On 4/20 Santa Barbara County Association of Governments (SBCAG) voted to go forward with a three quarter cent transportation sales tax, which will replace the current half cent tax that sunsets at the end of ’09.

If passed in November by the two thirds required, it would give $126M to a commuter rail service between Camarillo and Goleta. If UP needs capacity, there’s money in this for sidings, along with station upgrades, etc.

There is a commuter rail study due out (from IBI) next month in the Northern Corridor LOSSAN Plan that will be used to do the Uniform Transit Application (UTA) that will start the planning process for the commuter service.

It is incumbent upon all rail supporters to see that our county turns the corner on transportation and follows through on rail as they do on roads. It would mark a major change in transportation planning, and something our leaders don’t quite know how to deal with. Anything that hasn’t been done before can cause anxiety, but I’m confident that with a little encouragement it can be accomplished.

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