Coast Rail Coordinating Council meeting report

Reported by Bruce Jenkins, RailPAC Director

February 23, 2007
Inn at Spanish Bay, Monterey
The primary interest of this group is establishing the Coast Daylight train, which will run from downtown San Francisco to Los Angeles.

The main thrust of this meeting was a comprehensive report by Bill Bronte, Chief of Caltrans Division of Rail (DoR), explaining the posture of the situation in Sacramento concerning transportation funds:
Caltrans will propose to the Calif. Transportation Commission (CTC) that $20 to 25M be authorized for capital improvements for the Coast Daylight service and $150M for equipment (cars only). A substantial order for cars is required in order for a manufacturer to start up a line. Locomotives are relatively available and run about $2.5M. However, the Dept of Finance did not provide appropriation authority for STIP augmentation. There is a 4 year lead time on the procurement of rolling stock. DoR is working with stakeholders to give Caltrans appropriation authority to allow continuous procurement process, recognizing that cash will not flow for another year. The Governor’s office is metering the Prop 1a-1b Bond funds and the overall method of distribution of those $$ by Sacramento has changed. The Coast Daylight Program has very good support of upper management in Caltrans. Capital funds are likely to be released soon.

Paul Dyson, RailPAC’s President suggested that a review of Surfliner service be made and that a reduction of Surfliner trains would free up a train set and could be used for an “earlier” start up of the Daylight, rather than wait 5 years for new cars. Agreed, this is not the best outcome, but if Metrolink and Coaster schedules were adjusted to cover the gaps it would be acceptable at the same time reducing overall train count in the
LOSSAN corridor and would improve on time performance. Mr. Bronte replied that “we don’t want to cut service anywhere” and offered that “within the $25M (requested above) we could refurbish some equipment in Beach Grove that is on wreck status and do a long term capitalization lease to get that in process”.

Track access negotiations for the Coast Daylight with the Union Pacific will start as soon as funds are released. The capacity model has to be updated, however. Much of the model is still applicable, so it is estimated that it may only cost approximately $5K.

Mr. Bronte reported the operating budget for all three rail corridors, the Surfliner, the Capitol Corridor, and the San Joaquins, will be increased by $6.2M for rolling stock repair and fuel etc. This is the first increase in many years.

Bronte will be assigning one of his staff to be Coast Corridor Project Manager, working with all agencies and stake holders.

There is overwhelming support for the Daylight train, shown by resolutions from agencies and cities between San Francisco and Los Angeles. RailPAC President Paul Dyson reported that Burbank and Glendale just passed their resolutions, and RailPAC Vice Pres. North Art Lloyd reported that the TransBay Terminal JPA passed their resolution of support.

The very much missed Eric Schatmeier’s Marketing position at Caltrans will be filled by Katy Peterson, who comes from The Caltrans Directors Office. Mr. Bronte will be introducing her at the various future corridor meetings .

It was moved and carried that a letter will be sent to oppose the “elimination of spill over funds” for transit.

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