Dixon Transportation Center Unveiled
By Jason Massad/Staff Writer
Country music legend Johnny Cash famously sang, "I hear a train a comin', it's comin' round the bend."
Those lyrics reflected the hopes of the hundred-plus crowd of Dixon residents, businessmen and county transportation officials who gathered at the new Dixon Transportation Center Saturday.
Now that the ribbon is cut, the center will begin serving as a hub for local and express buses, Dixon's popular Readi-Ride transit service and as a commuter transfer station.
But one of the major goals of the station, an attractive mustard yellow and brown-trimmed depot that hearkens back to Dixon's simpler railroad days, is to lure a passenger train service to come around the bend, said Dixon Mayor Mary Ann Courville.
"Passenger trains started fading away" (with the rise of the automobile in the 1960s), Courville told an enthusiastic crowd. "The trend is now toward putting traffic back on the tracks."
Specifically, Dixon transportation leaders are looking to make their station one of the next stops along the popular Capitol Corridor train service, which runs all the way north of Sacramento to San Jose.
A little ahead of the noon schedule, the Capitol Corridor train stopped in Dixon Saturday on a ceremonial trip, and as a way to show the Dixon crowd what could be.
Current projections say the train service won't make Dixon a stop until 2015.
But the new depot, a historic recreation of Dixon's old station, has officials hoping that their efforts could shrink that timeline.
City workers even dug up an old sign, weathered and painted white, that reads in simple block letters - DIXON.
The sign won't be enough for a train stop, but it's a step in the right direction, say city leaders.
The next phase of the station is to build a platform from the depot to the train tracks, which could host commuters waiting for a ride to work in as little as five years, officials hope.
Courville made her pitch for that accelerated timeline standing on a stage, accompanied by a school band, and flanked by local and regional transportation leaders.
"I believe it will be a lot sooner than (2015)," Courville told the audience. "All we need is money. That has never stopped us before."
Measure H, a proposed half-cent sales tax for transportation on the June 6 ballot, could be all the extra funding needed to speed a train along to Dixon.
In fact, the $1.6 billion in revenues that would be reaped by the tax over 30 years, could secure stops of the Capitol Corridor in Dixon, the in-progress Fairfield-Vacaville station and one planned for Benicia.
"Measure H really is an investment in your community," said Suisun City Mayor Jim Spering, the county's Metropolitan Transportation Commission representative. "It's so we can see projects just like this."
The county currently has a Capitol Corridor stop in Suisun City. That station serves many commuters conveniently, including one of the county's transportation officials.
Jayne Bauer, the spokeswoman for the Solano Transportation Authority, takes the train from Sacramento, near her Carmichael home, all the way to Suisun City every work day.
The authority's office is within easy walking distance of One Harbor Center, a successful redevelopment project that houses the STA and other offices.
The Capitol Corridor is starting to become recognized nationally as a successful service, say transportation officials.
It's currently the third largest rail corridor in the country and demand is growing.
The government-run service recovers nearly 50 percent of its costs at the fare box, which is considered good for public transportation. By September, the corridor will run 32 of the high-speed commuter trains, corridor officials said.
As an old freight rumbled by on the nearby tracks, Spering again pumped up an affable Dixon crowd scattered around the plaza of the new transportation center.
"We're going to hear that sound, but it's going to be Capitol Corridor train that stops in Dixon," he said.
While the goal of the transportation center is to land a commuter train, the station is hoped to be an emerging civic gem in Dixon.
The Dixon Chamber of Commerce plans to move into the new building sometime after the Dixon May Fair this month.
"We'll be more visible to the public," said Marcie Marania, a chamber representative.
The Chamber of Commerce will, of course, promote the city's burgeoning business scene from the new station. But the building will also serve as a historical touchstone for visitors and city residents as well.
The history of Dixon will be presented in the building in the same way as interpretative centers in museums, said city officials.
It's fitting that Dixon's history be presented at a train station. For many of its pioneer years, the city relied on the railroad.
So much so, that the United Methodist Church of Dixon, originally in Silveyville, was hauled into town so that it could be closer to the people.
Why it sits at its exact location on North Jefferson Street, is a little bit of Dixon charm and history, Courville explained.
The holy place was lifted off its foundation and moved to Dixon on rolling logs, but there was a snag.
"They couldn't figure out the logs and the church over the tracks, so they left it there," she said.
Jason Massad can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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