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Caltrans Wants Input on California State Rail Plan

The just-released 2018 California State Rail Plan is the state's strategic plan for creating a coordinated, statewide rail network. It calls for increased investments in existing networks, including electrification, more grade separations, higher frequency service, and better integration among different systems.

The plan includes a vision to expand and improve both passenger and freight rail service, including seamless connections, increased reliability, modern and comfortable trains, and quick and easy transfers between services. It projects greatly increased ridership from these investments, which include high speed rail and connections to it via other existing rail services, as well as other new rail connections and better express bus services.

A series of open houses will be held throughout the state this week (see below for details), and the deadline for submitting comments is December 11.

California State Rail Plan 2040 vision for Northern California
California State Rail Plan 2040 vision for Northern California

This state-level look at the need for rail investment could help cut across the regional disconnects that lead to the poorly integrated system we have now. The plan also addresses the limits to passenger trains because of sharing rails with freight companies, who own much of the rail right of way.

Green Caltrain, taking a look at the plan's ideas for the Bay Area, writes:

The vision of a pulse system connected at hubs leads the plan to envision an East Bay hub station near Newark, Hayward, or Fremont to allow connections across Dumbarton to the Peninsula, to north-south service between Oakland and San Jose, to east-west services between Stockton and San Jose, and to BART. With this vision, the Plan clearly sees a need for a hub station to improve multiple connections, unlike the “blind men and elephant” fragmented view of connections found in various studies from BART, SamTrans, ACE, and Capital Corridor.

Considering the Dumbarton connection as part of the pulse system, fixing freight bottlenecks to allow timely passenger connections, and creating an East Bay hub with connections North, East, West, and BART, could provide much more convenient service for riders.

The report identifies key bottlenecks and goals to use money and leverage of the state to reduce conflicts between freight and passenger rail. SamTrans’ recent Dumbarton study assumes that will be difficult for ACE and Capitol Corridor, running on freight tracks, to achieve timed connections, and therefore it does not have robust forecasts for these connections. The difficulty of making tight connections also plays into the SamTrans recommendation to run bus service parallel to rail.

California State Rail Plan 2040 vision for Southern California
California State Rail Plan 2040 vision for Southern California

In addition to figuring out the Dumbarton connection, the plan calls for studying a second transbay tube to include rail service connecting San Francisco to Oakland and beyond, and other new connections statewide. Among the short-term goals named in the plan are:

    • Expanded service between Stockton and Sacramento, with a potential new station in Elk Grove, and possible extension of service to Marysville
    • New peak service from Roseville to Sacramento
    • Better connections and integration between existing rail services and Express Bus routes statewide
    • More frequent Caltrain services along the San Francisco peninsula
    • Faster service between San Jose and Oakland
    • Additional stops along the coast route in central California
    • Increased service between L.A. and Santa Barbara, with new peak service between Ventura and Santa Barbara
    • More trains between L.A. and Anaheim, Burbank and Union Station, and L.A. and San Diego

This plan is a visionary document, which will be useful for guiding investments towards the most efficient, sensible projects. For it to work, it must be coordinated with other freight/rail/transit integration plans, including from large regions and counties. The public meetings, listed below, are another opportunity to make sure that coordination happens.

Details on these upcoming open houses can be found here. All except the webinar will be held from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m.

    • FRESNO: Today, Monday, October 30: Historic Tower Theater, 815 E. Olive Ave.
    • OAKLAND: Wednesday, November 1: Oakstop Event Space, 1721 Broadway
    • SACRAMENTO: Tuesday, November 7: Sacramento Public Library, Tsakopoulos Library Galleria, Galleria West Room, 828 I St.
    • SAN DIEGO: Monday, November 13: Caltrans District 11 offices, 4050 Taylor Street, Garcia Room
    • SAN BERNARDINO: Tuesday, November 14: Santa Fe Depot, 1170 W. 3rd St.
    • LOS ANGELES: Wednesday, November 15: Metro Headquarters, 1 Gateway Plaza, Lobby and Board Room

And on Wednesday, December 6, from noon to 1:30 p.m., a webinar will describe the plan and some of its main points.

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