By Noel T. Braymer
With the outbreak of Corona Virus-2019 and social distancing, has come major reductions in ridership as well as service levels for all forms of public transport. Recently there is plenty of good news with funding for major improvements of existing rail passenger service in California as well as new services, equipment and track improvements. A major example of this was the recent announcement by the California High Speed Rail Authority with LA Metro of funding for building “run-through tracks” at Los Angeles Union Station.There has been talk of this going back about 40 years ago.
Along with the track work, the current pedestrian tunnel at Union Station will be greatly enlarged with extra room for new shops, food services and improved connections to Union Station transportation services. The Memorandum of Understanding between California High Speed Rail and LA Metro includes just over 800 million dollars in funding for Link US (for run through tracks and Union Station improvements) from California High Speed Rail and the California State Transportation Agency. This also includes shared use and upgrading of the Los Angeles County owned rail right of ways between Union Station and Lancaster. This also calls for additional funding to complete the run through tracks and Union Station improvements in time for the opening of the 2028 Summer Olympic Games in Los Angeles.
Also in the news in the Modesto Bee is a report of ongoing planning to extend more rail passenger service in a few years between the San Joaquin Valley and Sacramento. In the case of the “San Joaquin” trains, this would bring the previous 2 round trips between Bakersfield to Sacramento to 5 round trips by 2023 and 9 by 2026. This will switch most new Sacramento service to a branch line of the Union Pacific bypassing the UP mainline and the Sacramento Amtrak Station while terminating near the Sacramento Airport. This is part of the 900 million dollar- fully funded project to expand service.
The other part of this plan is part of the extension of the Altamont Corridor Express (ACE) which until recently ran 4 round trips weekdays between San Jose and Stockton. Construction is underway building a new ACE Track along the UP mainline between Stockton and Merced. For expanded service to Sacramento the new trains would have one round trip train by 2025 and up to 4 by 2027 on the same branch line between Stockton and Sacramento as all but 2 San Joaquin trains that will head to the Sacramento Amtrak station.
On a smaller scale, but also long awaited are improvements coming to San Diego County. The California State Transportation Agency awarded almost $40 million dollars to the LOSSAN JPA towards construction of a new maintenance and layover facility south of the downtown San Diego Depot as well for major overhauls of the Pacific Surfliner equipment which will run between San Diego-Los Angeles-Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo, The new maintenance/layover facility will be built south of downtown San Diego.
With the construction of hi rise condos around the Amtrak Station have come complaints about the noise from the new residents by the station of noise at night while crews work on the train equipment and of the smells from emptying sewage from the train’s toilets. The new maintenance facility will likely be in an industrial area south of downtown San Diego with rail access next to part of the San Diego Trolley Blue Line. This could also open up extended service for the Coaster Commuter trains with stops by the Convention Center roughly a mile south of the Depot. It might also lead to Coaster connections with the Trolley service not far from the Convention Center and Petco Baseball Stadium.
The State also granted $12 million for a $36 million project for service on the Green and Orange San Diego Trolley Lines. This is planned to extend a mile of double track in El Cajon to terminate Green and Orange Line trains at the El Cajon Transit Center. A shuttle Trolley will carry passengers transferring at the El Cajon Transit Center to the Santee Trolley Station. Most of the track between El Cajon and Santee is single track in the median of a major/ road. Also more money was granted for stabilizing the bluffs on the rail right of way at Del Mar.
Also in recent news California announced $500 million dollar towards 17 transit projects in the State. This included $6.5 million for 11 battery powered buses for the Antelope Valley Transit Authority. BART is getting $107.1 million dollars to buy 34 more new railcars. In Sacramento $3.9 million dollars is available for a new access route to connect the Sacramento Valley Station to the nearby new Railway Plaza development. The City of Inglewood is getting $95.2 million for a 1.6 mile People Mover to connect to the Downtown Inglewood Crenshaw/LAX Metro line station to the new SoFi sports Stadium with 3 additional stops in between in Inglewood. Lake Transit received $13 million for a new transit center at Clearlake and 4 new Fuel Cell buses. Long Beach Transit is getting $6.45 million for 5 electric buses for service between Long Beach and UCLA. LA Metro and Metrolink are getting $107 million for rail infrastructure improvements for hourly rail service in both directions on the Metrolink Antelope Valley line with addition half hourly service on the Antelope Valley line between Union Station and Santa Clarita.
A new Tier 4 Metrolink low emission locomotive at Los Angeles Union Station at the head of a trainset. Photo by Noel T. Braymer
Well you get the idea. There are many other projects for new electric bus services,Bus Rapid Transit and orders for new Light Rail vehicles. For additional details, see CalSTA 2020 TIRCP Award List and 2020 TIRCP Detailed Project Award