Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Regional rail plan tracks county's potential

August 19, 2007

Regional rail plan tracks county's potential

By Barry Eberling

SUISUN CITY - More trains and tracks in Solano County could feed into a beefed-up BART system to help keep commuters moving in coming decades.

That's part of an expanded role for trains envisioned in the draft Bay Area Regional Rail Plan. The price for the entire nine-county region through 2050 could be $36 billion to $44 billion.

People can offer their opinions Monday during two workshops at Suisun City Hall, 701 Civic Center Blvd. The workshops will be 3-5 p.m. and 6-8 p.m.

The Interstate 80 corridor has high ridership potential, the report said. The Capitol Corridor train service already runs 16 daily round trips, with the only Solano County stop in Suisun City.

Richard Silver of the Rail Passenger Association of California and Nevada agreed that the I-80 corridor area has a bright rail future because of its rapid growth.

"Every time somebody moves in, there's a potential new customer," he said Thursday.

People can transfer from the Capitol Corridor trains to BART in Richmond. The plan envisions an BART system that has more trains and more stations around the core urban part of the Bay Area.

"The BART system is the backbone," the plan stated.

But the Capitol Corridor tracks also handle freight service that will continue to grow, the report said. That slows trains as tracks becomes crowded. The report recommends having three to four tracks along much of the route, instead of the one or two now there now.

Challenges include replacing the railroad drawbridge over the Carquinez Strait at Benicia and getting environmental approval for work in such areas as Suisun Marsh. Then there's the challenge of finding the estimated $2.3 billion to pay for the improvements.

A new train service is envisioned linking Vallejo and Napa. Ultimately, the line would be expanded to include service to Fairfield and Vacaville to the east and San Rafael to the north.

But for now, the only action taken would be to preserve the tracks and railroad right-of-way. Service would start between 2015 and 2050. Ridership potential would have to grow first.

There is another possible train service for Solano County. This one creates a more direct I-80 corridor route, one that goes from Cordelia through Vallejo, crosses over the Carquinez Strait on a new bridge to Crockett and continues on to Hercules in Contra Costa County.

The existing tracks travel from Solano County to Crockett and Hercules but take a more roundabout route through Benicia and Martinez. A Vallejo route would cut travel time from Oakland to Sacramento from 93 minutes to 63 minutes and increase ridership, the report stated.

Silver and the report come to the same conclusion: This option is too expensive. It would cost a couple of billion dollars, the report stated.

"There's no question that's a better route," Silver said. "If we had to do it all over again, that's the route we'd do. But let's be practical about this."

Reach Barry Eberling at 425-4646 Ext. 232 or at

At a glance

Who: Metropolitan Transportation Commission and other agencies

What: Bay Area Regional Rail Plan

When: Monday, 3-5 p.m. and 6-8 p.m.

Where: Suisun City Hall, 701 Civic Center Blvd.

Info: 510-817-5809

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