Re­port Sup­ports Cal­i­for­nia State Rail Sys­tem Plan

The Oakdale Leader - - NEWS -

Cal­trans has re­leased Rail and the Cal­i­for­nia Econ­omy, a re­search re­port in­ves­ti­gat­ing how the state’s vast pas­sen­ger and freight rail sys­tem con­trib­utes to Cal­i­for­nia’s econ­omy, as well as an overview of op­por­tu­ni­ties for rail to ad­dress the state’s needs and chal­lenges in the fu­ture.

“Rail is a fun­da­men­tal com­po­nent of our trans­porta­tion sys­tem that plays a strate­gic role in meet­ing Cal­i­for­nia’s trans­porta­tion needs,” said Cal­trans Di­rec­tor Mal­colm Dougherty. “Cal­i­for­nia’s pop­u­la­tion is pro­jected to grow by 21 mil­lion by 2050 so ef­fi­cient move­ment of freight and peo­ple, while as­sur­ing safety and meet­ing air-qual­ity goals, will con­tinue to be our fo­cus as we move for­ward with our plan.”

The re­search re­port presents case stud­ies and anal­y­sis of rail freight and pas­sen­ger rail on land use, free­way con­ges­tion, the move­ment of dif­fer­ent types of com­modi­ties, and the im­por­tant con­tri­bu­tions that th­ese fac­tors play in sup­port­ing the state’s econ­omy.

Over $400 bil­lion of United States im­ports moved through Cal­i­for­nia in 2015. That’s about 18 per­cent of the na­tional to­tal, and 75 per­cent of con­tainer­ized goods leav­ing the U.S. were trans­ported by rail. With­out rail ser­vice to and from the ports of Los An­ge­les and Long Beach, con­tainer flows through th­ese ports would be re­duced by 39 per­cent, while port truck traf­fic would in­crease by 44 per­cent.

In ad­di­tion to freight rail, pas­sen­ger rail plays a huge role in the state’s econ­omy. The LOSSAN pas­sen­ger cor­ri­dor, which is un­der Am­trak and runs from San Luis Obispo to San Diego, has a pos­i­tive eco­nomic ef­fect on the South­ern Cal­i­for­nia re­gion by stim­u­lat­ing growth in terms of res­i­den­tial, in­dus­trial and com­mer­cial de­vel­op­ment. Many dif­fer­ent LOSSAN-cor­ri­dor towns have uti­lized their ex­ist­ing sta­tions as an­chors for new tran­sit-ori­ented de­vel­op­ment, and cat­a­lyst for eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment of their com­mu­ni­ties.

Re­gional com­muter rail can also gen­er­ate ben­e­fi­cial eco­nomic im­pacts by pro­vid­ing sav­ings for its pas­sen­gers, and re­duce con­ges­tion and travel time for trav­el­ers on other modes. The Cal­train sys­tem is one of the busiest re­gional rail ser­vices in the coun­try, op­er­at­ing along a 77-mile cor­ri­dor that ex­tends from San Fran­cisco, through Sil­i­con Val­ley to San Jose. At the height of the peak com­mute, there are six trains per hour, each ac­com­mo­dat­ing 1,000 pas­sen­gers, which cor­re­lates to a net­work ca­pac­ity of over 4,500 peo­ple per hour in each di­rec­tion. This is the equiv­a­lent of adding an ad­di­tional free­way with two lanes in each di­rec­tion.

It is es­ti­mated that each day, Cal­train rid­ers save over 200 met­ric tons of gas emis­sions. Mul­ti­plied over the year, 50,000 met­ric tons of car­bon diox­ide will be saved, which equals over $1 mil­lion on the Cal­i­for­nia cap-and­trade mar­ket. The sav­ings is the equiv­a­lent of re­mov­ing more than 10,000 ve­hi­cles from the road­way net­work.

While the re­port high­lights the ben­e­fits of de­vel­op­ing an ef­fi­cient and ef­fec­tive rail sys­tem it also presents the chal­lenges, such as shared track use, co­or­di­nated tick­et­ing, in­ter­county co­or­di­na­tion on fund­ing, main­te­nance is­sues, and more con­sis­tent bus con­nec­tions. The re­port sup­ports the Cal­i­for­nia Trans­porta­tion Plan 2040 and the 2018 State Rail Plan, and the idea of rail as a fun­da­men­tal strat­egy for en­sur­ing the state’s eco­nomic com­pet­i­tive­ness, pre­serv­ing and en­hanc­ing the en­vi­ron­ment, and im­prov­ing the qual­ity of life for Cal­i­for­nia’s res­i­dents.

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