San Joaquin Valley Rail Committee Meeting Report

February 11, 2010 Meeting

Reported by Michael Barnbaum, Associate Director

The San Joaquin Valley Rail Committee met February 11th and for the first time since October of 2009. The meeting took place inside the Castle Conference Center in Atwater. A special stop located at a railroad crossing directly across the street from the Castle Conference Center in Atwater was arranged by San Joaquin Valley Rail Committee Facilitator, Arthur Lloyd in cooperation with the BNSF Railroad, Amtrak, and CalTrans Division of Rail.

Hubert Hanrahan, sitting in for Stacey Mortensen, discussed the Central Valley Regional/High-Speed Rail Matters. Plans are moving forward after the newly formed Central Valley Rail Working Group and the California High Speed Rail Authority held public open houses gaining feedback both verbally and through comment cards. Erik Ferroggiaro of the California State Railroad Museum in Sacramento presented a slide show on passenger rail history in Yosemite Valley. His presentation included when transportation took over eight hours from the Central Valley in the 1800s on horseback to today’s Highway 140 and the YARTS Contract with Amtrak in and out of the Merced Station.

Todd Almilli of Amtrak gave the San Joaquin Valley Rail Committee an overview of San Joaquin Corridor Station Projects. Here is rundown of the nineteen station projects.

  1. Patrol Stop in Hanford for the Hanford Police Department
  2. Display Signs 9’X8′ “Welcome” on one side and Routes/Schedules other side
  3. Ticket Counter in Oakland that is ergonomic and ADA Compliant
  4. Rehabilitation of the Bakersfield Crew Base
  5. Public Address System
  6. Funding Anticipated for Digital Cameras for all San Joaquin Corridor Stations & SAC
  7. Patrol Stop being installed at Merced
  8. Asphalt and Repair Work being done at Stockton Amtrak Station
  9. Paint Color being decided at the Stockton Amtrak Station
  10. Seat Coat & Railing Work in and at the Stockton Amtrak Station
  11. Air Conditioning Work and Evaporative Coolers at the Stockton Amtrak Station
  12. Crew Office being built at the Merced Station.
  13. Tent and Canopy Work at the Hanford Station
  14. Painting of Hanford Station
  15. Fiber Run at Bakersfield to do cameras for facial recognition.
  16. Replace Ticket Counter at the Stockton Amtrak Station
  17. Bus and Baggage Check Desk installation at the Bakersfield & Stockton Amtrak Station
  18. Funding for Electric Doors at the Emeryville Station.
  19. Sacramento Station: Largest Project in the Country,7th Busiest Amtrak Station Nationwide

Tom Dodson & Associates discussed the San Joaquin Valley Rail Corridor and Future Amtrak Intercity Passenger Rail Operations. In summary, he wants to meet with all local municipal jurisdictions along the entire corridor. Mike Hamilton and Greg Santos of Amtrak both made a presentation on Amtrak California Safety/Security/and Train Operations. There were several incidents mentioned in the reports that would have any rail passenger concerned about the future riding of the trains on the corridor. There were mentions of where trains had “strikes” with pedestrians, automobiles, and semi-trailers where trains lost precious minutes of their productivity. There were at least eight incidents in which trains struck shopping carts, mainly in an area surrounding Fresno. Amtrak Southwest Division Superintendent Joe Yannuzzi commented on how critical it is to work with the local Police Departments.

The report discussed an upcoming bus bridge that will take place involving trains 711 and 716 in the East Bay when Union Pacific Crews at their own expense will be doing track work to keep the railroad in top condition. This project is scheduled to last ten days, from February 22nd to March 3rd.

Rick Depler attended the Meeting from BNSF and there were two highlights from his report. In October & December BNSF had a 97.8% OTP, while electronic train management system will start in the San Joaquin Valley in July.

Wes Lujan attended the meeting from the Union Pacific Railroad and mentioned that now they have double stacks are running over the Donner and they are waiting on “TIGER” funds and awards on Colton to Lathrop as well as Reno to Winnemuca sections..

Rick Peterson of Amtrak Bus Operations spoke about the up and coming May 10th Schedule Change for both bus and train operations. On bus operations, Rick mentioned that the Bakersfield to Santa Barbara runs might be reduced from four to three. The YARTS contract ends in May, and they are working to renew it. Visalia Transit has a summer shuttle into and out of Sequoia National Park, and bus operations is testing and evaluating tables on its buses. On train operations, Rick mentioned that minor schedule changes will take place on all trains, if any, except the Sunset Limited as it stands for now.

Lisa Martin gave a thorough Marketing Report about what CalTrans Division of Rail is doing on their upcoming activities. Amtrak California is now on the social networking site, Twitter. Folks can go to http://twitter.com/ Lisa also spoke about the AmtrakCalifornia Store, with support provided by PRIDE Industries. Folks can go to http://store.amtrakcalifornia.com/ .On the San Joaquins, Lisa Martin discussed the Kids ‘N Trains Box Lunch, which is an item ordered in advance and includes a turkey/cheese sandwich, applesauce, gram crackers, juice, and a piece of fruit.

Federal Updates followed the Marketing Report with Jonathan Hutchison of Amtrak. The State Update came next with Chief of the CalTrans Division of Rail, Bill Bronte. He also noted Hutchison’s optimistic approach, while Bronte, himself described that he takes an “Eeyore” approach like “oh bother” or “not in the mood” based on the forces of current events going on. Bronte mentioned that California will get around $100 Million, but not for one project in the San Joaquin Valley. He is also looking ahead to a potential “Stimulus 2/Jobs 1″ bill out of congress that would provide much needed funds to California. He is the chair of a States Group called States For Passenger Rail Coalition. Bronte is concerned over an initiative being circulated by three groups: The California Transit Association, the League of California Cities and the California Alliance for Jobs, that if passes, could freeze funding if some democratic proposals in the legislature get signed into law as well, including but not limited to the sales tax on diesel split to transit operators and InterCity Rail. Bronte mentioned that an adequate level of Rolling Stock for corridor services was not included in the Amtrak Fleet Plan. Access to a “Riff” loan is somewhat easy, he said, but Bronte also mentioned, “We hoped for stimulus to do rehab.”

The meeting ended with some sad statements from Stanislaus County Public Member, George Gaekle. George mentioned that this would be his last meeting as a member of the San Joaquin Valley Rail Committee. The next meeting of the San Joaquin Valley Rail Committee will be the Bi-Annual Meeting in the State Building near the Fresno Station on April 29th.

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