TAMC Rail Policy Committee meeting

Transportation Agency for Monterey County Rail Policy Committee
Meeting Report for June 2, 2008
By Chris Flescher, RailPAC Associate Director

TAMC is still studying alternatives for the Monterey Branch Line

There are three being considered.

  • 1. Enhanced bus service. This has a capital cost estimate of $46 million.
  • 2. New combination of bus rapid transit (brt) and rail. This would have for phase 1, brt from Monterey to Marina, and for phase 2, intercity rail from Marina to San Francisco. The total capital cost estimate is $185 million, with about $135 million for just phase 1.
  • 3. Light rail and intercity. This would have for phase 1, light rail from Monterey to Marina, and for phase 2, light rail from Marina to Castroville and/or intercity rail from Monterey to San Francisco. The capital cost estimate is $217 million.
  • The previous combination of light rail and intercity had a capital cost estimate of $327 million, which would make it ineligible for New Starts funding. That requires a cost of less than $200 million. These three “new” alternatives all seem to be federally competitive, meaning that they are similar to projects that have received federal funding under New Starts.

    TAMC had considered two different processes for choosing the mode, which involved doing intermediate EIR studies for modes at different times in the process. It previously appeared that TAMC would use Method 2 to pick the travel mode, but now it looks like TAMC will use Method 1. These two methods have been described in the minutes of earlier TAMC meetings.

    Using Method 1, the LPA (locally preferred alternative) will be chosen in Jan 2009. Method 1 will require less time to study the different modes, and because of that, the cost of producing studies will be less.

    The federal government provides a significant amount of funding for light rail and commuter rail, but not for intercity rail. The desire in the past of TAMC (from 1992 to 2001) was to have intercity rail between Monterey and San Francisco. In the last few years, TAMC has been closely studying commuter rail between Monterey and Castroville, as well as light rail and brt on the same corridor.

    There are different interests between the governments of Seaside and Marina. Seaside would like a direct line between Seaside and Castroville. Seaside opposes having brt from Seaside to Marina and then rail from Marina to Castroville, requiring a transfer. One person from Seaside asked “why build brt only as far north as Marina?” Another consideration is that having both brt and rail in the same row will be very expensive, which means that the chances of getting federal funding for it are low. Marina supports having brt from Monterey and Seaside to Castroville, but built in two phases, with Monterey to Marina first.

    It appears that the main part of the agenda for the following meeting will be to discuss building brt in a single phase, from Monterey to Castroville, and what the cost of that project is.

    The TAMC committee members want to discuss the scope of work for Woodside (a consulting agency) to negotiate a deal with the JPB for Caltrain service to Salinas. TAMC expected the total consulting cost to be a certain amount, but now the expected cost is turning out to be significantly higher.

    There will be a bicycle/pedestrian undercrossing in Castroville, and there is an interest in finishing this project before the future Castroville station opens nearby.

    Some of the cost will come from slightly moving the tracks in that area. TAMC will apply for a grant to fund part of the project, from the “Safe Routes to School” program. I think this is a state program.

    TAMC is currently trying to get a local match for federal money in this project. The local money would go towards paying to hire a consultant, who would help to write all the required documents for the project.

    This kind of pedestrian crossing project usually costs around $5 million, but this particular project is turning out to be much more complicated and expensive. One reason is that the tunnel will be high enough to allow a fire truck to drive through in an emergency.

    For the Caltrain extension to Salinas, TAMC expects to receive a letter from Congress soon, which will ask the FTA to move faster on approving the project. TAMC has reached a memorandum of understanding with Monterey Salinas Transit (MST) for allocating funds to operate the future rail service.

    TAMC is still working with the FTA to develop a ridership model to predict how many people will use the train service. TAMC is trying to use a model that the San Jose area transportation agency (SCVTA) uses. When TAMC received a copy of the model (computer program) at first, it did not work well, because the computers TAMC uses did not have enough speed and memory. TAMC now has an upgraded computer, which allows the model to work properly. TAMC is currently trying to add a category to the model of land use near stations, as well as to test the sensitivity of the model to changing various parameters. TAMC expects to finish using the model in 1 or 2 months.

    Later this year the Rail-Volution conference will be held in San Francisco. There is an interest in doing a “mobile workshop” as part of the conference, which would involve taking participants from San Francisco to Monterey County on a bus. The workshop would show MST-owned property on Fort Ord, and would discuss proposed Transit Oriented Development in Marina, Sand City, and Seaside.

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