San Joaquin Valley Rail Committee Meeting Report

November 4, 2010 Meeting in Madera

Reported by Michael Barnbaum, Associate Director

The San Joaquin Valley Rail Committee held its quarterly meeting one week later than normal to be as close to the schedule change date as possible for the grand opening of the new Madera Station.

The normal procedures opened the meeting after the arrival of Train #714 from Oakland to the new Madera Station, with the Pledge of Allegiance and the Introductions of Committee Members and members of the Audience. In the welcoming remarks by Committee Member Vern Moss of Madera County, he presented a plaque to Lee Goldenberg of the CalTrans Division of Rail based in Sacramento County.

The chair moved on to one critical action item that was a resolution supporting High Speed Rail. After some discussion, and recommendation by CalTrans Division of Rail Chief, Bill Bronte, of language to be added that was direct support from CalTrans Division of Rail, the San Joaquin Valley Rail Committee approved the following resolution with a 100% unanimous vote:

WHEREAS, in 1996, the California State Legislature created the California High Speed Rail Authority to develop a plan for the construction, operation and financing of a statewide, intercity high speed passenger rail system; and

WHEREAS, California officials and citizens have been working together to plan for a high speed rail system for California and in November 2008 California voters approved $9.95 billion in bond funds to finance a high speed rail system that will run from Sacramento through the San Joaquin Valley to San Diego, with a segment of the system branching out to the Bay Area; and

WHEREAS, the California High Speed Rail Authority has designated a number of high speed rail train station stops in the San Joaquin Valley for the high speed rail system which include a station in Fresno, Kern, Kings, Los Angeles, Merced, Sacramento, San Joaquin and Stanislaus Counties; and

WHEREAS, the San Joaquin Valley will be the “back bone” to the California High Speed Rail system as it will connect Northern California, the Bay Area, and Southern California all into one transportation system via the San Joaquin Valley; and

WHEREAS, the San Joaquin Valley Rail Committee was formed for the purpose of discussing and formulating plans, suggestions and ideas for changes and improvements to passenger train service in the San Joaquin Rail Corridor; and

WHEREAS, the San Joaquin Valley Rail Committee feels that High Speed Rail can be an effective tool in working with the San Joaquin Valley Corridor to provide for the transportation needs of the San Joaquin Valley and California; and

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED by the San Joaquin Valley Rail Committee that the Committee supports the concept of a High Speed Rail system that will work effectively with the San Joaquin Valley Corridor service, in addition to other passenger train services in California.

After the High Speed Resolution getting approval, Chair Pedrozo asked for any Committee Member Information Items. There was one from Committee Member Michael Snyder. Michael Snyder asked the Committee and CalTrans Division of Rail to work with the California State Legislature to make ammends to the Perata Law. He mentioned there is no public transportation between Oroville & Sacramento except the Amtrak Bus known in the Amtrak California System as “Route 3.”

Reports went very quickly due to the time constarints to get the new Madera station grand opening underway. A few points came out of the quick reports.

Anthony Chapa of Amtrak reported that the San Joaquin was Number Two in overall Amtrak on time performance for the Federal Fiscal Year that ended on September 30th. The only route, which Anthony mentioned that surpassed the San Joaquin Route in terms of on-time performance was the Capitol Corridor. Their Board will hold its 2010 calendar ending meeting on November 17th in Suisun City, at which time their 2011 calendar of meetings will be available for all of 2011.

Jonathan Hutchison of Amtrak Government Affairs mentioned that following the November 2nd Election Results that “there are more questions than answers” at this time. As a side note to that, this writer wants to point out that a television station the the Sacramento-Stockton-Modesto market has as its slogan, “Asking Questions, Getting Answers – Only on the CBS 13 News.”

Rick Peterson of Amtrak Thruway Bus Operations mentioned the Fall 2010/Winter 2011 schedule changes that will take effect on Monday, November 8. The detailed changes will be mentioned here in this report thanks to a handout given at the San Joaquin Valley Rail Committee Meeting.

Train Schedule Changes:

The next Amtrak schedule change takes effect Monday, November 8, 2010. The San Joaquin Trains will operate on their present schedules. Most buses have no change.

Train 6 (The California Zephyr) will operate 40 minutes earlier from Emeryville eastbound. San Joaquin Train #711 connections via MotorCoach from Stockton will continue to be made at Sacramento Valley Station.

Thruway Bus Changes:

A number of bus stops with low ridership will be discontinued. These locations averaged fewer than half a passenger per bus. This speeds service slightly and reduces operational mileage cost.

  • Baker, CA
  • Rosamond, CA
  • Thousand Palms, CA
  • Beaumont, CA
  • Lebec, CA
  • Van Nuys Flyaway, CA (replaced by Burbank Airport, CA)

Three new stops are expected before the end of November:

  • Cabazon/Morongo Indian Casino, CA
  • Palm Desert, CA
  • La Quinta, CA

During much of Thanksgiving week, we will operate extra sections on key bus schedules.

Bill Bronte, Chief of the CalTrans Division of Rail reported that $171 Million in Federal Funding was announced the week prior to the November 4th Meeting. Of the total, $100 Million will be for equipment and $1.5 Million for the California Statewide Rail Plan, which was also matched by $500,000 in state money. An amount of $300,000 will be utilized for the San Joaquin Valley Service plan. Bronte also reported that with the passage of Proposition 22, the Public Transportation Account will likely be restored & that we will not be competing for General Fund Dollars like we used to prior to Proposition 22.

Just prior to the conclusion of the meeting, Supervisor Vern Moss of Madera County, and Supervisor Brad Aborn of Mariposa County announced that this is their last meeting.

After meeting adjournment, the opening ceremonies were held for the dedication of the new Madera Station. Service at the new Madera Station for the general public will take place in conjunction with the National Amtrak Timetable Change on Monday, November 8, 2010. Upon the arrival of Train #715 from Bakersfield, folks heading back to Oakland and Sacramento boarded the train around 4:00 P.M. immediately after the banner was broken which read, “MADERA, The Train Stops Here!!”

The 2011 San Joaquin Valley Rail Committee Meetings will be held on the fourth Thursday in the months of January (27th), April (28th), July (28th), and October (27th). At the time of the writing of this report, the upcoming January Meeting does not have a location determined. CalTrans Staff will send communications as to the location sometime between mid-December and early January.

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