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TAMC Rail Policy Committee Meeting Report

September 13, 2010 Meeting

Reported by Chris Flescher, Associate Director

According to the California Transportation Commission (CTC), TAMC needs to conduct an independent ridership review and economic analysis, for the Monterey Branch Line (MBL).  The study will be very important when TAMC asks for money for engineering.  TAMC will ask for $50,000 of Prop 116 funds.  If the money is granted, the engineering may start in December and end in April.  The ridership study will be very similar to the one performed by Parsons, but will be done by a different agency.  TAMC does not know yet who it will be.

TAMC will release a Request For Proposals in October. TAMC presented a proposal to the Capitol Corridor operating agency (CCJPA) in June, and the CCJPA was supportive.  They will meet again later in September, to discuss the 60% level of design, and scheduling options.  Caltrain was considering ending all Gilroy service.  However, their staff recommends continuing the service for at least one more year.  TAMC is currently showing the plans for 60% design to cities, counties and other interested groups.  TAMC will have plans for 90% design complete in December.

The Ad Hoc Station Committee went to the station sites recently. There was a meeting with TAMC with property owners near the Salinas Station and there will be a similar one for Castroville.  There are special rules for right of way negotiations, which could cause TAMC to lose out on possible funding.  TAMC will hire consultants to observe the process, in order to avoid such a loss of money.  The FTA requires an independent review of station designs, to determine if there are other possible savings.  TAMC has hired a group to perform that study.  TAMC may have the so-called Final FTA environmental review ready for public comment at the end of the month.

One proposal made was to have another field trip on the Coast Starlight between San Jose and Salinas.

There may be questions about maintenance issues near Elkhorn Slough.

There will be a meeting next week at the El Estero Senior Center to discuss issues relating to Window on the Bay Park.

TAMC people attended another meeting for the Monterey Waterfront Plan.  The public comments showed that people support the general idea of passenger rail to the City of Monterey.  However, they are very concerned about Window on the Bay Park.  There is some concern about moving the existing bike path, to make room for the rail line.

Reports

TAMC Rail Policy Committee Meeting Report

June 7, 2010 Meeting

Reported by Chris Flescher, Associate Director

The commuter rail extension (Gilroy to Salinas) is now in the right of way acquisition phase.  The committee has issued a request for proposals in 3 categories: acquisition agent, legal services, and on-call appraisal. For the on-call group, the committee received 8 proposals. They recommend placing 7 on the list, for future use, but not signing any contracts. For legal services, there were 5 proposals. The committee recommends Meyers Nave. The acquisition agent proposals were many. The committee chose Overland Pacific, Associated Right of Way Services, and Paragon Partners as the top 3. The committee interviewed those agencies, and Overland Pacific was chosen.   The committee passed a resolution to support the above choices, and the final contracts will go to the TAMC Board of Directors later this month.

TAMC needs to buy 24 parcels of land. Hazardous materials work will be necessary for phase 2 of the acquisition. The pollutants will need to be identified and mitigated. Parsons will handle some of that work.

Updated Project Budget

The capital cost is about $110 million. TAMC is still seeking $75 million from a federal Small Starts Grant. TAMC may get $500,000 from Santa Cruz County, which has discussed helping to pay for the Pajaro station.  The estimated total operating costs are $4.49 million per year. The expected farebox revenues are $3.31 million per year, leaving the net operating costs as $1.18 million.

The federal funding for the Commuter Rail and the Monterey Branch Line projects will probably happen in different years, so the two projects will not necessarily be “competing” with each other. However, there could be political pressure not to award two grants to the same area, even in different years.

TAMC has sent the administrative draft environmental assessment (for Commuter Rail) to the Federal Transit Administration (FTA). TAMC has received comments back from the FTA.

The chairman of the California Transportation Commission has shown concern about financing for existing Caltrain services. This is important, because the extension will be operated by either Caltrain or the Capitol Corridor.

Monterey Branch Line

The public outreach for the Monterey Branch Line is continuing. Representatives from TAMC have been attending meetings and showing the video simulation.

At the presentation to the Monterey City Council, the most common concerns were noise and the impact to Window on the Bay Park.

Reports

TAMC Rail Policy Committee Meeting Report

May 3, 2010 Meeting

Reported by Chris Flescher, Associate Director

There was a recommendation to create an Ad Hoc Committee for proposed stations.  The group members would visit the sites of the proposed Castroville and Pajaro Stations, plus the existing Salinas train station.  The recommendation passed.

The RPC has recently met with the operators of the Capitol Corridor.  They will make a presentation at the CCJPB meeting on June 16 in Oakland.  There is a possibility that service to Salinas will start in 2013.

The City of Council of Salinas has passed a resolution to support the so-called “smaller design” of the Salinas Intermodel Transit Center (ITC).  The smaller plan involves moving some Monterey Salinas Transit (MST) routes to the ITC and creating a second MST transit center there.  The existing MST center (which is 3 blocks away) will continue to be used for the other MST routes. The earlier plan was to completely replace the existing MST transit center with the future one next to the train station.
The RPC contacted the California Transportation Commission (CTC), asking them to program the remaining Prop. 116 funds to buying land for right of way.  The CTC approved the request.  The RPC made Requests for Proposals for real estate groups to assist with buying the necessary right of way property.

Monterey Branch Line

There are currently two routing options for the area just to the north of Window on the Bay Park.  The proposed track locations are close to each other, maybe 100 feet apart.

TAMC has received a message from the city of Marina, which lists about 70 comments.  According to the RPC, most of the concerns can be easily addressed.

The RPC showed their simulation video of trains passing between Castroville and Monterey.  The RPC members expressed an interest in having close up scenes in the video of trains passing Window on the Bay Park, and for certain major intersections.  The City of Monterey would like an addition to the video, showing an overhead view of a train passing Window on the Bay Park. All the scenes in the current video are side views, like a person walking nearby would see.  The RPC members made some suggestions for slight changes to the video.  Two suggestions were to have a few more people on the train, and to show the train moving a little more slowly.  The reason for the second suggestion is that some residents still worry that the trains will be big, loud, and fast, therefore disturbing the atmosphere in the area.  The video was a “draft” version, and the RPC will make the suggested changes before showing it to the public at some upcoming outreach sessions.

Reports

TAMC Rail Policy Committee Meeting Report

April 5, 2010 Meeting

Reported by Chris Flescher, Associate Director

Presentation from planners working on the HSR segment San Jose – Merced

In 2035, if the fare is at the lower planned level, then the expected ridership is 100 million people per year.  The run time from San Francisco to Los Angeles, phase 1, will be 2 hours 40 minutes and the length will be about 500 miles.  The planners are at the alternatives analysis stage, and they will publish a report in about 1 month.

For the impact on TAMC, the Morgan Hill to Gilroy subsection is the most important part of the HSR.  The area has quite a few alternative routes, and going adjacent to Highway 101 is one route.  It is believed that the Gilroy station would need about 6000 parking spaces.  If a completely new Gilroy HSR station is built, it would be about 1 mile southeast of the existing one.  The new station location would not provide as good connections to the “local” San Jose to Salinas service.  All HSR stations would have 4 tracks.

Monterey Branch Line

There is a need for more public outreach.  Some people think that the proposed light rail on the MBL is the same kind of service as the state HSR.  For MBL street crossings, there will be gates and lights, but no bells or horns are planned, so the system should be very quiet.

One alignment (past Window on the Bay Park) will run the tracks right next to Del Monte Avenue, so very little of the park will be “lost.”  There is an interest in adding a few locations to the simulations, like Contra Costa Street and  Playa Avenue.

One suggestion made was to mention some of the right of way history, around 1985-1989.  During that time, the cities of Monterey and Marina reached an agreement, which included accepting some state money to buy the rail line with plans to turn it into a bike path but accept future transit use of the corridor.

Short animated videos (simulations) are being created for every station.  They show what trains passing the stations will look like.  There is a need to finish the simulations in time for some upcoming public events, like the one which will be the second Monterey Waterfront Master Plan meeting.

What’s Next?

Next month, TAMC will ask the state for permission to use the last of the Prop 116 money to buy property for the rail line to Salinas.  The estimated property cost is $24 million.

There is a desire to release a Request for Qualifications, for real estate agents and appraisers, for buying land in the right of way. The RFQ also includes legal firms for assistance with buying.  The plan is to take this plan to the full TAMC Board of Directors this month.  During the June meeting, the committee will return with a list of approved agencies.  The motion to release the RFQ was approved by the Rail Policy Committee.

It was mentioned that the San Jose Mercury News predicts that Caltrain could be bankrupt in two years from now.  The Capitol Corridor operators appear to have more stable sources of funding.  This seems to show that TAMC made the right decision, which is to pursue negotiations with the Capitol Corridor operators, to extend some of their trains to Salinas.

Reports

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.

Commentary

TAMC Rail Policy Committee Meeting Report

Reported by Chris Flescher, RailPAC Associate Director, Salinas
November 2, 2009
Commuter Rail to Monterey County
There are some advantages to serving Salinas with a Capitol Corridor extension instead of the proposed Caltrain extension.

The Capitol Corridor trains would serve both the commute market and the long distance travel market. The Capitol Corridor Joint Powers Authority (CCJPA) works well with the UP railroad, which is important for getting access rights to the track between Gilroy and Salinas. There is some state funding available for intercity rail, which could be used for Capitol Corridor improvements, but not Caltrain improvements. At this time, the CCJPA has capacity issues at the San Jose train station. Running some of the Capitol Corridor trains to Salinas could help ease the San Jose capacity problems.

TAMC is working on a draft 2010 Legislation Program.

TAMC is planning meetings with Federal officials in the next month. TAMC is asking the Rail Policy Committee (RPC) for comments on the Legislation Program.

Environmental Review for Monterey Branch Line (MBL)

TAMC will form a steering committee, which will start to meet every 2 months. The committee will have members from each city along the route, and from the county. One project for the committee will involve creating visual simulations for the impact of the trains on the view at the Window on the Bay Park. TAMC will also be forming a technical committee, which will look for technical input on the design and location of stations, among other issues. The TAMC RPC would like to complete all the environmental reports for the MBL in the next 14 months.

Presentation from Salinas Renaissance Partners (SRP)
This is a summary of one chapter from their report, titled “Rail District.” SRP is analyzing development possibilities for 26 acres of city-owned property in downtown Salinas. The SRP group had a public meeting on October 21 at the Steinbeck Center. Some conclusions from that meeting of how to improve downtown were: more housing, more opportunities for shopping, and more live music. Several key elements include traffic calming and pedestrian enhancements.

There are some catalyst elements (which are likely to speed up the pace of improvements). They include the proposed 145-room hotel and an office building next to it; a TOD (transit oriented development) designation for the area around the train station with a significant amount of affordable housing; and a “grand campus” including most government services buildings. One section has been given the name of Rail District, because it includes the train station. Some features include Class A retail and high density housing next to the station, and buildings with a large floor-plate to the west, on Market Street. These would help create 24-hour activity at the site. The area is not currently designated as TOD. TOD would be necessary to create everything in the plan, partly because that would allow much higher density of development.

There are several plans being considered for the Rail District. Some have parking structures and some have the MST Transit Center in different locations. A parking structure would partly serve the dense housing. The TOD designation would allow the possibility of significant federal money for certain improvements, like making the streets more pedestrian-friendly. Any property within one half mile of the (TOD) district boundaries would be eligible for such federal money.
The current permitted zoning is about 15 units per acre. The TOD designation would require around 60 to 80 units per acre. Creating such development would require zoning changes for both the density increase, and a change in the building height limits.

Because Salinas has a large population and very high unemployment, the city is eligible for some other sources of redevelopment money. If the city received money from the other sources, it could use some of the money specifically to help create TOD.

The Renaissance Partners group will take a concept plan to the Salinas City Council soon and ask the Council to endorse it. The group currently has exclusive negotiating rights with the City Council.

One possible use of federal funding for a TOD district would be to improve connections between Chinatown and downtown. Currently, the two places are very near each other, but relatively few people walk between the two.