Monthly Archives

April 2010

Spring Training 2010 Tucson rail photos 031
Rail Photos, Reports

Revisited: Sunset Limited “stations” at Deming and Lordsburg, NM and Benson, AZ

Report and Photos by Russ Jackson
Originally published in the April 2010 “Tracking the News”

In the June, 2007 issue of the Western Rail Passenger Review this writer described the pitiful condition of the places where Trains 1-2 “flag stop” at these three small communities between Tucson and El Paso.
At Deming there were two garden benches chained to a fence and a lonely sign pointing the wrong way.

At Lordsburg, a small railroad shack with benches inside and a sign “Lordsburg” on the outside, but no signage saying this was a train stop.

At Benson it was somewhat better: there was a shack with the word “Amtrak” on the outside, but still no other information.

So, what has changed? At each of the small stations there is now a basic sign saying “Amtrak Train stops here, Board at this location,” and gives the 800 number. That’s an improvement, but gives little detail.

At Benson the shack is still there with an asphalt path to the track. The Sunset Limited stops there, having to be on the “south” track, and if sleeping car and coach passengers want to get on-off the train must double or even triple stop. In FY 2009 Benson sold $141,682 tickets to 1,098 riders. Benson is the “gateway” to Tombstone, and to the Kartchner Caverns State Park one of the few such remaining open.

At Lordsburg, the shack is gone!, replaced by only the (different) signs but still no path to trackside. Nevertheless, 404 riders spent $42,891 that year to ride.

At Deming, the sign is in a better location and a new shack has been built replacing the garden benches, so there is some shelter for people waiting for the train. There still is no path from this building to trackside, though; riders still must board from the street crossing. Deming had 844 riders who spent $42,891 in FY 2009.

NOTICE the grade crossing at the Deming “station.” It is protected by concrete barriers to 1) prevent autos from trying to “beat the gates,” and 2) prevent autos from turning into the Union Pacific/Amtrak lot. These barriers make great sense, and there are many of them unused but available for similar duty in other states.

BTW, all but two “rest stops” on I-10 are now closed in Arizona. To save money, the state says, but what are the problems that decision has created? Long distance truckers, who are required to park for their rest, now must go to a commercial truck stop. Aha! Got that? Back in the 70’s this writer attended a Kiwanis meeting in east San Diego County that heard a presentation from Caltrans on rest stops in California. Attending that meeting were Kiwanians from El Centro, who complained that the new rest stop on I-8 was built too near their city so travelers “would not have to stop and patronize businesses.” Looks to me who won that battle in Arizona.


TAMC Rail Policy Committee Meeting Report

March 1, 2010 Meeting

Reported by Chris Flescher, Associate Director

Salinas Intermodal Center (ITC)

Some significant changes for Salinas.

The previous plan was to have all the functions of the Monterey Salinas Transit (MST) transit center moved to the ITC.  That would require a lot of space for bus platforms.  MST is planning to retain their existing center (which is about 3 blocks away). There will be a section at the ITC for MST buses, but all the buses will not stop there.  This will result in more space at the ITC, which will be used for more parking.

The train layover facility will change.  The previous plans were to allow access to the tracks only from the west end (towards Castroville).  The current plans will have access from both directions.  That will provide increased flexibility for operations.

Two sites at the ITC are proposed for development, but any buildings will have space underneath, to allow surface parking.

These new plans will go to the MST Design Committee and the Salinas City Council, in the next few weeks.  This new design will allow for longer trains, which will be necessary if the Capitol Corridor services the station, instead of Caltrain.

Now is the time to consider design details, like having native plants and permeable pavements.  There is an interest in such features.  The Salinas design code requires parking lots to have sections that are water permeable, although that results in fewer parking spaces.  Another possibility mentioned is electric vehicle charging stands.  The expected car turnover per day in the lot is low, and that would allow narrower aisles and parking spaces, providing more total spaces.

The Old Town Association would like the station to look similar to the nearby buildings.  The design will fit in with the relatively old buildings.

Pajaro Valley Station

The designs have only changed slightly since 2003.  UP has agreed to tear down the existing, and unused, station building.  The county (Santa Cruz County) is not currently ready to put a replacement building on the site.  The county would like to reserve space for a possible future station building.

There will be a platform 800 feet long with a 500 foot canopy.  The canopy will have a very modern look, and will be made out of canvas.  It will be “under-lit” and the cloth should last 25 years.

A traffic signal will be added at the corner of Loomis Road and Salinas Road.

It will be necessary to raise the platform about 1 foot, in order to be above the 100 year flood plain.  That will require the track level to be changed slightly.

Castroville Station

Now the primary planning site is just to the north of Blackie Road.  There are 3 large cooling buildings nearby.  TAMC will buy a 100 foot strip of right of way near the buildings.  There will be a platform 800 feet long, with a 255 foot canopy.  There is a desire to make the canopy resemble a mission building.

There are two options for creating the track layout.  UP wants an existing siding to be converted into a passing track.  A passing track will require power switches at each end, and cost several million dollars.

It will be necessary to coordinate the design with the San Jose to Salinas (commuter rail) and Castroville to Monterey (light rail) so that both can use the station.  There will be space for an extra platform (which would service the light rail).  There will also be space to connect the future light rail track to the mainline.  That way, if technical and political issues can be worked out, then there could be through service (Monterey to San Jose) someday.

Gilroy Station

There are plans to extend one track beyond 10th Street, to where the mainline double track starts at Luchessa Street.  This would involve about 0.5 mile of extra track.

Proposition 116

There is now about $6 million of Prop 116 money left over for Monterey County.  The RPC asked to use that money to go into property acquisition, mostly around stations.  The deadline for getting the remaining Prop 116 money is July of this year.  An earlier plan was to use $4 million of that money on the Monterey Branch Line (MBL).  The current interest is to switch the money from the MBL to buying property around stations on the commuter rail line (San Jose to Salinas).  The motion to transfer the money was passed by the RPC.

Other issues

RPC members mentioned a desire to have rental cars and/or zip cars at the Salinas station.

TAMC will bring all these station designs to UP, the Capitol Corridor operators, the Caltrain operators, and the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) in the near future.  The agencies will be required to approve the new designs.

The City of Monterey will have a public meeting in two weeks, presenting a plan for future development on the waterfront.  The location of rail (for the MBL) will be discussed in the plan.

In around a month, computer visual simulations will be completed for the MBL.  They will show what the areas near each stop on the MBL will look like.  TAMC will then send op-ed pieces to local newsletters, discussing the MBL plans.