(Comments from RailPAC VP North Arthur Lloyd and Executive Director Richard Silver. The RailPAC Board has enthusiastically endorsed a quick startup of this new train on the Coast Line.)
By Liz Harrelson, MEDIA NEWS
An uphill struggle by train advocates and coastal communities to reinstate a historic San Francisco to Los Angeles train connection is gaining momentum.
With what could be considered an “I think I can” perspective, supporters of the historic Coast Daylight train have been pushing to reinstate the popular train route since the 1990s. They may soon catch a break.
Arthur Lloyd, a member of the Caltrain Joint Powers Board, announced earlier this month that the busy Peninsula rail system has an open “slot,” or time frame, during which the Daylight could run.
“With 96 trains every weekday, we’ve got to find a place for it. And we have,” Lloyd said. “We have found a slot for it to run from San Francisco to San Jose in our Caltrain system.”
Preliminary plans are to have the train stop in the Peninsula communities of Palo Alto and Millbrae, as well as Gilroy, Lloyd said.
South of Gilroy, the train would stop in Soledad, King City, Paso Robles and San Luis Obispo en route to Los Angeles.
Lloyd also serves on the Coast Rail Coordinating Council, a group that has been working to reinstate the historic train route for almost two decades. The Daylight ran from San Francisco to Los Angeles through the cities of San Jose, San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara from 1937 until Amtrak merged the line with others in 1971.
“The move deprived San Francisco of a direct connection,” Lloyd said. “Bottom line is: It gives a direct service to our side of the Bay.”
Reinstating the Coast Daylight could cost around $150 million, said Richard Silver, executive director of the Rail Passenger Association of California.
Train tracks between the cities of Gilroy and Salinas would need to be improved, with a few “sidings,” similar to vehicular passing lanes, installed along 150 miles of track between Salinas and San Luis Obispo.
An additional train set would need to be bought, and more train stations, most likely in King City and Soledad, would need to be built, Silver said.
“We know the ridership’s there,” Silver said. “If anything, a through train will only attract more riders.”
Several hurdles remain, with perhaps the steepest being Amtrak’s view that adding such a route is not a priority.
“If the community supports it along the route and it’s funded, then it could be a viable option,” said Vernae Graham, Amtrak spokeswoman. “But I think we’re a long ways away.”
Amtrak’s Coast Starlight train service currently runs from Los Angeles to Seattle, through San Jose and Oakland, bypassing the Peninsula altogether.
Caltrain Joint Powers Board members will be asked to support the project at an Oct. 5 meeting.