Amtrak Long Distance, Arizona, Bay Area, Caltrain, Commentary, High Speed Rail, LOSSAN, Nevada, Orange County, Rail Technology, San Diego County, San Francisco, San Mateo County, Santa Clara County, SMART, Technical and Rolling Stock

Steel Wheels, 4th Quarter 2021 issue available online

Download the pdf of Steel Wheels, 3rd Quarter 2021 by clicking here.

In this issue:

  • Northern California Passenger Rail Projects
  • Vision for the future of Inland Empire rail
  • Locomotive emissions
  • New routes to San Diego
  • Bi-Level Challenge
  • Superliner Cars- Whats Next?
  • Future rail service in Monterrey County
  • Arizona News
  • Nevada News
  • and more!
Amtrak Long Distance, Coachella/Imperial Valleys

RailPAC submits support letter for CRISI Grant Application for Coachella Valley Rail

For more information on the Coachella Valley-San Gorgonio Pass Rail Corridor Service Project, click here.

Mr. Amit Bose

Acting Administrator 

Federal Railroad Administration

U.S. Department of Transportation

1200 New Jersey Avenue SE

Washington, DC 20590

November 4, 2021

Subject: Support for the Coachella Valley-San Gorgonio Pass Rail Corridor Service Project Application for Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements (CRISI) Grant Funding

Dear Administrator Bose:

The Rail Passengers Association of California and Nevada (RailPAC) fully supports the California Department of Transportation Division of Rail and Mass Transit’s (Caltrans) application for Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements (CRISI) Grant funding for the Coachella Valley-San Gorgonio Pass Rail Corridor Service Tier II Project Approval and Environmental Documentation Project (Project). RailPAC is a 501c3 volunteer group of railroad professionals and advocates that has campaigned for improved personal mobility in California and the west since 1978.

RailPAC applauds this effort to advance additional intercity rail service between Los Angeles Union Station (“LAUS”) and the Coachella Valley. This new passenger rail service has long been a goal of our organization, the California State Rail Plan, and Riverside County, and has been studied at least seven times by public agencies since the early 1990s. The time for action is now.

If funded, the CRISI award would advance the project closer to construction and implementation of daily intercity rail service between Los Angeles and the Coachella Valley.  With the Service Development Plan (SDP) and Tier I environmental clearance for the corridor expected to be approved in early 2022, the NEPA/CEQA Tier II environmental study is the next step toward fulfilling the transformative vision in partnership with the Federal Railroad Administration.

As a joint project between Caltrans and Riverside County Transportation Commission (RCTC), the local implementing agency, the project will provide for the following:

  • Preliminary engineering along the 76-mile eastern section of track to the 30% level; and
  • Project-level environmental clearance for up to six stations, a new third main track, and associated grade crossing and signal improvements on the eastern section of the corridor.

RailPAC fully supports the proposed CRISI grant to further develop the main feature of the preferred Build Alternative Option 1 (as described in the Project’s Tier 1 EIS/EIR): the construction of a new third mainline track along 76 miles of the Union Pacific (UP) Railroad’s existing Yuma Subdivision between Colton and Coachella. Given the capital costs of the third mainline track proposed from Colton to the Coachella Valley, RailPAC wants to emphasize the variety of benefits to passenger and freight rail that are possible with this investment in additional track capacity. Any proposed service in the Project corridor, and the capital improvements associated with it, is a building block for future service improvements and expansion.  Laying the foundation for future expansion adds significant public value to the Coachella Valley – San Gorgonio Pass Rail Corridor Service Project (CVR).   Examples of this expansion include:

  • Greater frequency and speed of CVR passenger trains, and extension south to the Imperial Valley
  • Daily Amtrak Sunset Limited
  • Benefits to Union Pacific freight rail
  • New California-Arizona regional passenger services

The State of California and RCTC are investing in regional mobility and transportation infrastructure, as well as in sustainable freight and goods movement, and are committed to matching funds for the CVR Project. This is a game-changing economic opportunity with environmental benefit to all communities along the route from Los Angeles to Coachella Valley.

Sincerely,

Brian Yanity

Vice President- South and Board Member,

Rail Passenger Association of California and Nevada (RailPAC)

Robert Manning

President, Southwest Rail Passenger Association

Board Member, Rail Passenger Association of California and Nevada (RailPAC)

Amtrak Long Distance, Commentary, Electrification, Rail Technology

RailPAC submits comment letter to U.S. DOT on supply chain and freight issues

The majority of intercity and regional/commuter passenger rail service in the U.S. is on tracks shared with freight trains. Therefore, sufficient capacity, safety and reliability of the nation’s freight rail system is vital to the interest of rail passengers. These two different uses of railroad infrastructure need not be in conflict. Both passenger and freight trains sharing the same tracks will benefit from coordinated planning, efficient operations, and capital improvements.

RailPAC is pleased to offer this comment letter in response to the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT)’s Request for Information: America’s Supply Chains and the Transportation Industrial Base (Docket No. DOT-OST-2021-0106). RailPAC has provided written responses to particular freight and logistics topics on which the DOT seeking information from the public, as described by the notice of request for information

RailPAC’s 11-page comment letter can be read by clicking here.

Events, Steel Wheels Conference

Registration for the RailPAC Annual Meeting on October 16th is Now Available!

Registration for the Steel Wheels Conference on October 16 is now available. Additional details and the registration link are available on the Events tab. As noted earlier, the in-person meeting has been canceled. The 2021 conference will be a Zoom meeting.

CITIZENS FOR RAIL CALIFORNIA dba RAIL PASSENGER ASSOCIATION OF CALIFORNIA

NOTICE OF ANNUAL MEMBERS MEETING

Date:  Saturday October 16, 2021

Time:   10 a.m.   (Formal business meeting scheduled after the presentation)

Format:  Zoom meeting (see below for registration and invitation details)

Agenda:

Welcome

In remembrance of Bruce Jenkins and Marcia Johnston

The 2021 Annual Meeting is being held in the memory of these two dedicated RailPAC members

Guest Speaker:                  Jim Allison, Manager of Planning, Capitol Corridor JPA 

Business Meeting:           To conduct the regular business of the organization:
To elect the Board of Directors.
To receive reports from the President and Secretary/Treasurer

Any other business

Meeting Registration: Register at http://railpac2021.eventbrite.com/      

Upon Zoom registration, the invitation will be sent to the registrant’s email address. Please also check your Spam folder if it does not arrive. Please be advised last-minute registrations may be affected by a Zoom meeting cap.

Meeting Invitation: A day or two before the meeting, those who registered will be sent a Zoom invitation for connection on the day of the meeting.

Meeting Protocol: On Saturday October 16, for meeting security purposes, we will be using a “waiting room.” As a result, there will be a short delay between the time of your electronic connection with the meeting and your entrance into the meeting. Please mute your microphone upon meeting entry.

Commentary, eNewsletter

Update on Noel Braymer’s rail ENews

“As many of you have noticed, Noel Braymer’s ENews is no longer showing up every Monday in our inboxes.   I wanted to give everyone an overview of the status of this popular information source.  Over the past two years changes with the web vendors and the functionality of their products used to produce ENews combined with increases in the number of publications with “paywalls” has made it increasingly difficult and challenging to produce ENews using its traditional format.  Noel tried very hard to make it work but things became increasingly unworkable. As a result we are taking a step-back to reevaluate the ways in which current news can be provided and products that might be available to achieve that goal at a reasonable cost.  At present, there is no timeline for a replacement. So on behalf of myself, the RailPAC Board and all ENews readers I wish to thank Noel for all his hard work over the past decade in developing, editing and distributing ENews – including during his trips to Ireland.  Thank you Noel.”

-Steve Roberts, RailPAC President

Antelope Valley Line, LA Metro, Metrolink/SCCRA, SCORE Program

RailPAC submits comment letter on Draft EIR for Antelope Valley Line Capacity and Service Improvements Program

Brian Balderrama

Senior Director

Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority

One Gateway Plaza

Mail Stop: 99-17-2

Los Angeles, CA 90012

Email: AVL@metro.net

August 22, 2021

Subject: Public Comment Letter on Draft Environmental Impact Report for the Antelope Valley Line Capacity and Service Improvements Program

Dear Mr. Balderrama,

The Rail Passenger Association of California and Nevada (RailPAC) is a two-state organization with membership throughout California and Nevada. RailPAC is a strong advocate for an expanded comprehensive public transportation network serving the entire state of California as well as Nevada. RailPAC is an all-volunteer non-profit passenger rail advocacy group, founded in 1978.

RailPAC fully supports the three capital projects in Antelope Valley Line (AVL) Capacity and Service Improvements Program Draft Environmental Impact Report (EIR):

  • Balboa Double Track Extension located in the City of Los Angeles
  • Canyon Siding Extension located in the City of Santa Clarita
  • Lancaster Terminal Improvements located in the City of Lancaster

The three projects assessed in the EIR will provide the capacity required to allow Metrolink to increase AVL service to all-day 30-minute bi-directional headways between Los Angeles Union Station and the Santa Clarita Valley and up to 60-minute bi-directional headways between the Santa Clarita Valley and the Lancaster Terminal by the year 2028.

Upon completion, these three projects will benefit thousands of rail passengers each day on the Metrolink AVL- enabling a safer, more reliable and more frequent passenger train service, improving on-time performance and operational flexibility, while reducing the risk of train delays and operational shutdowns during routine maintenance and incidents on the AVL. 

Sincerely,

Brian Yanity

Vice President- South and Board Member,

Rail Passenger Association of California and Nevada (RailPAC)

Fullerton, California

Amtrak Long Distance, Arizona, Bay Area, Caltrain, Commentary, Editorials, Electrification, High Speed Rail, LA Metro, LOSSAN, Metrolink/SCCRA, Nevada, Rail Photos, Rail Technology, SCORE Program, Steel Wheels Conference, Technical and Rolling Stock

Steel Wheels, 3rd Quarter 2021 Issue Available Online

Download the pdf of Steel Wheels, 3rd Quarter 2021 by clicking here.

In this issue:

  • Hydrogen and battery-electric rail propulsion
  • Dumbarton rail corridor
  • Amtrak dining
  • Amtrak to Glacier Park, group trip report
  • RailPAC California infrastructure priorities
  • Arizona News
  • Nevada News
  • RailPAC board member Marcia Johnston remembered
  • and more!

Commentary, Electrification, High Speed Rail, Rail Technology, Technical and Rolling Stock

RailPAC sends letter to U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg in response to letter from California Assembly Speaker Rendon on High Speed Rail Settlement Agreement

The Honorable Pete Buttigieg
Secretary of Transportation
1200 New Jersey Avenue, S.E.
Washington, DC 20590

July 7, 2021

RE: Response to California Legislature’s Electrification Technology Letter

Dear Secretary Buttigieg,

The Rail Passenger Association of California and Nevada (RailPAC) is an all-volunteer
bi-state organization that has advocated for the improvement of commuter and intercity
passenger rail service since 1978. Many RailPAC members are veterans of the railroad
industry or have considerable knowledge and experience of energy application and
transmission.

Recently the Speaker of the California Assembly and several co-signers sent you a letter
regarding the FY2010 High-Speed Intercity Passenger Rail Grant Settlement Agreement.
The letter from the Speaker argued that battery and hydrogen technology make overhead
power delivery obsolete and that the Settlement Agreement should not restrict funds
solely to an overhead power system. In addition,that letter contained optimistic
assumptions and omissions which we would like to highlight.

While there is potentially a role for battery and fuel cell technology in rail transportation,
it is clear that neither hydrogen fuel cell nor batteries can deliver enough power to
operate a high-speed train. The key issue is the impact of weight and speed on the power
requirements.The critical advantage to overhead catenary electrification is the ability to
“offload” the power source to stationary power sources. This “off-loading” avoids
significant vehicle weight by eliminating thousands of pounds of fuel cell, hydrogen fuel
or batteries. Simply put, batteries and hydrogen fuel cells will never be light enough, or
have the on-board energy storage density to match the power efficiency of overhead
electrification for high speed rail operations. Overhead electrification has proven reliable
and is safe and cost effective for high-speed rail systems around the world.

Some members of RailPAC work on the design and building of prototype battery electric
locomotives while others own hydrogen powered automobiles and are involved in
advocating for adoption of hydrogen power. They were uniformly critical of the
Speaker’s proposal. They note that battery and hydrogen technologies are still unproven
both from the technical and economic perspective. There are scalability issues around the
production and distribution of green hydrogen which will require a significant investment
to become viable.Overhead electrification is “off the shelf” technology with decades of
proven service and continuous technological improvements.

Finally, given the lack of technical awareness and the lack of due diligence in the
Speaker’s letter,one can only presume the real intent of the letter was to sow confusion
in order to delay the project further,adding costs. Certain members of the Assembly
hope to divert funds to projects in Southern California seemingly unaware that there is
planned or ongoing investment of over $30 Billion in funded rail projects in the region.
Neither Southern California public agencies nor the construction industry has the
immediate capacity to take on additional large scale projects even if the funding were
made available.

RailPAC remains committed to the California High-Speed Rail project Early Interim
Service as the most viable path to the phase one high-speed network and the only viable
alternative to increased highway and airport investment. RailPAC sees no need to alter
the existing language in the Settlement Agreement. Thank you for your strong support
for passenger rail.

Sincerely,

Steve Roberts, President

Rail Passenger Association of California and Nevada (RailPAC)

cc: Chief Counsel, Federal Railroad Administration