San Joaquin Valley Rail Committee

Hanford, Calif.; Reported by Bruce Jenkins, RailPAC Director. — The San Joaquin Valley Rail Committee met in Hanford on Nov.9, ’06, chaired by Mayor Harvey Hall of Bakersfield.

Rick Depler of BNSF gave an update on OTP for the valley line for October, a record of 93.7% for Amtrak trains!

DJ Mitchell (BNSF) gave an update on their Maintenance of Way (MOW) project, and Electronic Train Management System (ETMS). MOW is still scheduled for January thru February 29th from Fresno to Bakersfield, where 73,000 ties will be replaced. Most San Joaquin trains will be affected. Note: it was also revealed that UP will do MOW in the same time frame Martinez to Richmond.

The ETMS will be installed on the Ark City Kansas to Ft Worth corridor for a demonstration and to ultimately achieve FRA approval . After approval “we will be free to deploy ETMS and tell California’s Division of Rail that they need to participate in setting up the system. DoR needs to step up and provide funds to equip their trains… We are looking at 2008 for start up.”

PHOTO: San Joaquin train 702, operating as a push train with the cab car up front, arrives at the new Wasco station, the last stop before reaching Bakersfield, on October 11, 2006. On November 26, the Sunday after Thanksgiving, 183 passengers boarded the buses at Bakersfield going to Los Angeles from train 702, 43 on the bus for Oxnard/Santa Barbara, 40 for the Riverside/San Bernardino bus, 15 for the Las Vegas bus, 14 for the Glendale/Long Beach bus, and 13 rode the bus for Van Nuys/Simi Valley. The train 702 consist had 6 cars pulled by one locomotive. (Photo by Russ Jackson)

BNSF will also make other upgrades to their tracks e.g. in the Stockton area where numerous crossovers will see improvements. Double track and crossovers in the Calwa-Bowles area, and hi speed turnouts, concrete ties in areas e.g. Shirley- Hanford, Oakley- Port Chicago, double track in Escalon (3mi) and crossover in Merced. Extended double track (Jastro to Shafter), north of Bakersfield. The Fig Garden siding in Fresno is off the table for now. (This writer and RailPAC Directors Art Lloyd and Bill Kerby, as well as numerous Committee members were impressed that BNSF sent four representatives to address BNSF issues at this meeting. It clearly displays a sense of commitment by BNSF).

Zoe Richmond, Executive Director of Operation Lifesaver (OL) made a well received presentation. It was brought out that California is #1 in the nation for trespass issues and #4 in the nation for grade crossing fatalities. Central Valley incidents are increasing. OL is seeking people who speak Asian languages and elected officials to appeal to ethnic farm workers, professional drivers, law enforcement and civic bodies. Merced County will be the educational “guinea pig” for this program.

Larry Miller (Fresno County) reported that he had met with Jerry Wilmoth (UP) regarding Train service for Merced, Tulare, Bakersfield (old SP line). UP sounded encouraging and that a meeting will be scheduled in Omaha.

Jonathan Hutchinson (Amtrak) reported that San Joaquin ridership was up 5.5% and revenue up 11.9%, 2.7% of delays were caused by rolling stock problems. He added if S1516 (80/20 funding) should pass in the U.S. Congress “we will see an exponential increase in rail travel and California is the leader”.

Bill Bronte (Chief, DoR) appealed to the Committee (and all the other groups e.g. Capitoll Corridor, Coast Rail, ACE, LOSSAN, PJPB etc) for another joint letter like the one they they submitted at APTA to support 80/20 funding. If there is success then the state can get credit for the $1.7 B already spent. “California is the success story.”

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