By Noel T. Braymer
The San Joaquin Joint Powers Authority which manages the San Joaquin trains is negotiating with the Union Pacific to add more trains from the San Joaquin Valley to Sacramento. It seems the UP would like to switch the current 2 Sacramento roundtrip San Joaquin trains as well as future additional service from its Fresno Subdivision to its Sacramento Subdivision. The Fresno Subdivision is a very busy freight line, while the Sacramento Subdivision has plenty of underused track capacity. The main issue is there are no direct track connections from the Sacramento Subdivision to the Amtrak Sacramento Station. That would mean no direct connections to the Starlight, Zephyr, Capitol Corridor Trains or the connecting Amtrak Thruway buses at Sacramento. The following will detail these issues and some possible connections to make this work.
The UP Sacramento Subdivision was the old Western Pacific mainline through Sacramento. It has many grade crossing in Sacramento. The Sacramento RT Light Rail shares several miles of the Sacramento Subdivision on its Blue Line in Southern Sacramento between Franklin and Broadway Stations. A possible joint Amtrak and RT station at Broadway might be built. The Blue Line runs west from Folsom through downtown Sacramento before turning northeast to Watt/I-80. But it doesn’t stop at the Sacramento Amtrak Station, which is served by the RT Gold Line. Also there are no connections between the Sacramento Subdivision and the Gold Line. What might be possible would be to run special RT connecting trains from Broadway to the Sacramento Amtrak Station since the Blue, Gold and Green Lines share most of the same tracks in downtown Sacramento. Another option would be to build a new joint station between San Joaquin trains and the RT Blue and Gold Lines. The Sacramento Subdivision goes under the Gold Lines at R Street between 19th and 20th streets. With a new joint station for the San Joaquins to the Gold Line there would be direct service to the Amtrak Sacramento Station. For passengers transferring to the Blue Line a new station could be built near a Midtown San Joaquin Station which would be under a new Gold Line station. If these options are not possible there should at least be connecting shuttle buses to the Amtrak downtown station from a new San Joaquin Sacramento station in Midtown.
A major issue to deal with if more trains are run in the San Joaquin Valley to Sacramento is the need for more stations between Stockton and Sacramento. The only station now between Stockton and Sacramento is at Lodi which would be bypassed if trains are rerouted from the Fresno to the Sacramento Subdivision. The problem is most of the population between Stockton and Sacramento is along the Fresno and not the Sacramento Subdivision. The best places for more stations would be in the metro areas just north of downtown Stockton and south of downtown Sacramento. It would make sense to go north of Midtown Sacramento with at least one more Sacramento stop. The Sacramento Subdivision goes through Midtown Sacramento and would be no more than a half a mile walk to either the State Capitol or Sutter’s Fort which are both popular tourist sites for visitors. There is much else in this area that would be in walking distance to a Midtown Station for the new Sacramento San Joaquin trains. It would also make sense to run the trains to northern Sacramento for a station stop. Also needed is a place to layover equipment between runs which might as well be a station too in north Sacramento. Downtown Sacramento is a bit crowded for storing trainsets during turnarounds. Bus connections at a northern Sacramento terminus would feed more riders too.
Recently there has been interest in extending San Joaquin service service to Yuba City by local leaders. The San Joaquin Joint Powers Authority said that may be possible in the future but not in the near future. There is limited available equipment and funding to operate more service. The Sacramento Subdivision (the Feather River route) could serve Yuba City and Oroville. It might be possible to extend service with bus connections to Lake Tahoe and Reno on this route. But before that could happen a cost estimate will be needed to see what it will cost to upgrade the the line and buy badly needed new equipment to expand service.
It is possible to connect the Sacramento Subdivision to the Fresno Subdivision to reach the Sacramento Station. But it won’t be cheap. Not far from the Sacramento Station the Sacramento Subdivision goes under the Fresno Subdivision at a 90 degree angle in a trench. It should be possible to build either a tunnel or a flyover to connect the Sacramento Subdivision to the Fresno Subdivision for the short distance to the Amtrak Station. Maybe the Sacramento Subdivision could also be used for the High Speed Rail connection between Stockton and Sacramento with blended service with San Joaquin trains in the Metro Sacramento area and separate tracks in the open country. The blended tracks in Sacramento could be lowered in a trench to grade separate both passenger services in Metro Sacramento. But that will be few years in the future.