Opinion by Noel T. Braymer
With mid-term elections coming up the administration is now talking about spending 50 billion dollars for transportation projects in the long delayed transportation bill. The amount of new money going for infrastructure pales compared to the trillions of dollars of deferred maintenance we have in this country. Given the need for new construction and jobs the ironic thing is how much of the money for infrastructure from the current stimulus funding has yet to be spent.
California has been promised 2.25 billion for High Speed Rail. But it will be well into 2012 before we will see any construction from that money. We are starting to see some projects being aided by Federal Stimulus funding. This includes the recent start of construction for the Transbay Transportation Center in San Francisco. The Colton Crossing will also get some stimulus funding but it will be about a year before construction hits its peak. Last year Caltrans said they had 377 million dollars in rail projects that were “shovel ready” and could be started within 90 days of funding. Out of the stimulus funding Caltrans Rail Division got 94 million out of 1.1 billion requested.
In the most current State Rail Plan for 2007-08 to 2017-18 the projected capital projects for improvements to the State Supported Passenger services is just over 4 billion dollars. Under expected available funding under a constrained budget, the baseline funding in this period is 700 million. This is to pay for long awaited improvements for the Capitol Corridor, San Joaquins, Surfliner and future Coast Daylight service. Just on the Surfliner route between Los Angeles and San Diego this includes 1.6 billion dollars for improvements up to 2018. This is far from the final word. LOSSAN has issued a study of projects just for San Diego County as part of the proposed I-5 freeway rebuilding between San Diego and Oceanside which local officials are also proposing rail improvements. A 110 mile an hour railroad with tunnels under Del Mar and University Towne Centre has a final price tag of 2.9 billion dollars just in San Diego County.
Not all is bleak. One example: the state is applying under the TIGER II program for 54.3 million dollars toward the Southern California Rail Passenger Positive Train Control Program, a 314.8 million dollar project which has mostly State and local funding. It would install PTC signaling on rail lines owned by Metrolink and San Diego counties. PTC has to be installed by 2015. But this project does more than install PTC. It also includes other signal upgrades around LAUS and at grade crossing which will raise speeds up to 79 miles per hours between Moorpark and Los Angeles. It will also include track and tie replacements with concrete ties in many places. Several stations will get improved platforms and safer pedestrian access to station platforms. This TIGER II grant if it goes ahead will close the funding gap to get this project started. Let’s see that it does.