San Joaquin Valley Rail Committee

Reported by Bruce Jenkins, RailPAC Director — The meeting started with several local (Merced, Mariposa) speakers advocating service to/from Yosemite National Park. One speaker from Mariposa was endeavoring to gain a seat on the Committee, which is being considered. A visual presentation was made entitled “Blueprint for San Joaquin Valley,” which includes all the counties. The big pitch was control of air polluton and the need for improved public transit. This was a good lead into the “Resolution for Rail” on the UP line in Tulare County presented by member Ty Holscher. This could be “dovetailed” into “The Blueprint.” The “Resolution” was tabled, and will be on the next meeting agenda. In the interim, there will be dialogue with Union Pacific, Caltrans Division of Rail, the SJVRC (as suggested by UP rep Jerry Wilmoth who was in attendance).

Rick Depler of the BNSF stated that On Time Performance was up to 88 to 92% and they predict 95% soon. Asked how the OTP was improved, he replied “through dispatcher stabilization”, i.e. utilizing dispatchers familiar with the territory and keeping them there. A tie (85k) and rail (120k ft) replacement program between Stockton and Bakersfield will commence Jan 14 and finish February 15. Work will be scheduled to minimize slow orders .

Mr. Depler also commented that their new Electronic Train Management System (ETMS) is moving along in Texas. Expect FRA approval shortly.

Bill Bronte, Caltrans Chief of the Division of Rail, reported that the San Joaquins surpassed the Capitols in ridership gain last month (7 1/2%). Fuel prices are cutting into fare box return bigtime. Plans are being made for a joint meeting of all Boards (CCJPB, SJVRC, LOSSAN, CRCC, SANDAG etc.) to coincide with APTA in San Jose in October with the object to gin up support and sign a letter of support of US Senate bill S1516 (80/20 Capital Grants).

SJVRC Chair Harvey Hall reported that he had held successful meetings in his Bakersfield office with BNSF, DoR and SJVRC members to gain a good understanding of problems and to achieve solutions. It is this writer’s opinion that Mayor Hall is a definite asset and makes a very positive contribution to this committee.

Bad News: Chair Hall announced that Eric Schatmeier of DoR is leaving and will join Marin County where he will lead a new Transportation Planning Group. Eric has been the Marketing Group leader for the San Joaquins these past years. Prior to coming to DoR he was with Caltrain.

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