Transportation Agency of Monterey County

Reported by Chris Flescher, Associate Director, RailPAC — The status of the service to the Monterey Peninsula is that there still might be 2 trains a day running in 2009. The project is under environmental review and TAMC is examining alternatives. TAMC will be applying for FTA new starts money soon.

Earlier that day (Feb 6), some TAMC staff met with the UP railroad. The first reaction of UP officials was that UP doesn’t want even one train a day without some track improvements. There are 3 projects that UP is studying (Caltrain to Salinas, tourist train to Monterey, Coast Daylight) that will affect their operations in Monterey County. UP feels that the first (Caltrain to Salinas) will require the smallest amount of improvements.

TAMC staff said that signaling improvements and double tracking near Aromas are two things that UP is not pushing really hard for. Signal improvements tend to be very expensive compared to projects like a small amount of double tracking. UP is very interested in a layover yard in Salinas, and Amtrak may want it too. This could be expensive and slow to build, and has a strong potential of delaying the entire project.

It appears that the full yard project would cost around $10 million, but a temporary one could be built for $1 million.

There are similar questions about constructing stations. It would cost about $50 million to build / fix-up all the stations that TAMC eventually wants to see, but that much money would be hard to get. Creating basic or temporary station infrastructure would allow trains to run soon and better ones could be built later.

There are issues with a Castroville station. The preferred location is north of highway 156, but building one there could take 7-8 years because it requires approval of the Coastal Commission, Castroville Redevelopment Agency, and it depends of a plan for future growth in Castroville being completed. Building just to the south of the city could occur quickly but it is not a good long-term location for a station.

Christina Watson of TAMC recently met with someone from FTA who deals with New Starts funding. He didn’t think that a demonstation project (like one train a day, with temporary stations) would hurt TAMC getting funding for a “permanent project.” Christine wants to meet with FTA regional officials (in San Francisco) to ask their opinion and wants to have TAMC staff study the issue more carefully.

Apex Strategies (a consulting firm) is prepared to work on 3 major issues. 1: negotiation with UP for infrastructure improvements. 2: negotiation with Caltrain JPB and Amtrak for (I believe) working together on scheduling south of San Jose. 3: determining what all the capital needs are and how TAMC could get money for them.

TAMC officials want to hire APEX to do each one, but as a separate work order.

One question was this: if the negotations are still going on in June, will that affect the sales tax referendum (county-wide, for transportation) ? It doesn’t seem likely to be a problem, according to someone on TAMC staff.

One project to work on right now is creating new diagrams for a simpler Salinas layover facility. The current design appears to be very expensive (and unaffordable).

The rail policy subcommittee (the group at the meeting) approved asking the full TAMC board for money to have a meeting with UP.

One thing that will make meetings more expensive is that TAMC will probably have to commute to the UP offices in Roseville.

An issue that is likely to cause problems or delays in the future is dealing with the environmental issues around Elkhorn Slough. The tracks pass through the wetlands and making changes will require approval from different agencies.

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