Let Us Start Now for Rail Service to Nevada

Commentary by Robert MacDonald, RailPAC member, Oakland

On September 11, 2014, the media announced that the Nevada State Legislature had passed the approval of TESLA’s constructing its “gigafactory” at Union Pacific’s station of PATRICK, which is about 13 miles east of the station of Reno. TESLA has announced that their new plant will employ 6,500 people at full operation. Nevada’s governor announced that the factory would bring to the area, about 22,000 new or part time jobs! Thus, about 100,000 residents will be added to the Reno/Sparks area. The added population will also impact the small towns east of the site, such as Fernley, Silver Springs, and Wadsworth.

On its website, RailPAC’s Issues states as follows: “Expanding Regional Rail service to Northern California with added service in the Capital Corridor, linking Monterey, Redding, and Reno, NV into an integrated network and coordinating service at Fremont (Warm Springs station) with the Capitols, ACE, BART, and Caltrain with the reopening of the Dumbartion Bridge”

The estimated population in the three county area around the new plant is 473,000 in 2013. This new plant and its satellites, will add about another 100,000 people to this total. It is hoped that the new plant will be operating circa 2016-’17.

Now is the time to get the paper work done to get additional passenger rail service established between the Cities of the Capital Corridor and Reno /Sparks area. This expanded Capital Corridor route could add two California communities, i.e., Colfax and Truckee! Another stop might be Norden, CA, especially in Winter.

The first problem to be solved is how to have the Capital Corridor extended the 35 miles between Truckee, CA and Reno, NV. This is a government action. The second problem to be solved will be the expansion of passenger trains on the Union Pacific Railroad between Sacramento CA and Reno/ Sparks, NV, a distance of 157 miles. The eastern terminal for the extended service should be Fernly, NV, about 25 miles east of Reno/ Sparks. Land could be made available for a “layover” track, and there is now a wye at Fernly for turning trains.

Union Pacific should be offered the same “perks” that it now has on the Capital Corridor, on the proposed extension of passenger service between Auburn,CA and Fernly, NV. Remember that the Union Pacific’s line from Sacramento to Fernly is the original Central Pacific Railroad line built in 1867-68. It will need some upgrading as to alignment and also PTC. Some double track should be rebuilt, and also the line should be upgraded to double directionnal, double track CTC with double crossovers about every six to eight miles. Start these track and signal improvement at Vista (Sparks) and work west. These improvements can be made at a rate of about 30 miles per year, under rail traffic. The upgrade from Auburn to Sparks could be completed within about five years. The upgrading of the line from Vista east to Fernly will depend upon the needs of the new “gigafactory” and its satellites.

Yes, start the paper work for this future service now, as it will take 36 months or more to get the trains running under existing conditions. The track and signal upgrades should start ASAP and funds are available.

Remember that the Donner Party was not the only one that has had environmental problems between Fernly and Auburn. This is snow country and the Southern Pacific and Central Pacific built snow sheds (remember the City of San Francisco- 1952). Also, a major earthquake fault runs west of Reno to the Verdi area.

Let us start now! Let us connect an enlarged population in the Reno/Sparks area to the multi-millions of people in the Bay Area and Sacramento area.

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