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American Shipper

Bay Area rail plan calls for massive investment

Bay Area rail plan calls for massive investment

Regional planners in Northern California last week unveiled a draft rail planning report saying that improvement to both the freight and passenger systems in the Bay Area are the only way to prevent gridlock from overtaking the system.

   The San Francisco Bay Area Regional Rail Plan, the first such report for the region in 50 years, calls for at least $46 billion in regional rail projects to deal with the growth problem.

   The report concludes that highways and vehicles alone cannot solve the impending growth of traffic the region faces over the next 25 years. The report found that by 2030 the millions of people moving within the Bay Area transportation system each day will be joined by hundreds of thousands more from far reaching suburbs and outlying regional areas such as Sacramento and Stockton. The report also found that freight traffic in the region is likely to increase 350 percent over the next 50 years.

   The report found that improvements and investment in the Bay Area's vast rail system will be an essential component of handling the growth of passenger and cargo traffic in the area.

   The light rail Bay Area Rapid Transit system, or BART, is limited in outward expansion opportunities, the report found, but would remain the key component of the region’s mass transit plan.

   Two regional rail systems received special attention in the report, namely the Sacramento region’s Capitol Corridor and the Stockton to San Jose Altamont Commuter Express passenger service. Both were identified as potentially large players in handling future growth.

   The Capitol Corridor was singled out as in need of immediate attention of upgrading. Currently, passenger and freight trains share the route's tracks, causing delays that will only increase as passenger and freight volumes increase. A great proportion of the region's freight rail traffic utilizes the Capitol Corridor route, said the report, and separating the passenger and freight services by the addition of at least two main tracks on the route is an essential project.

   Funding for the projects in the report is not guaranteed, and many of the details will still have to be debated by local government authorities.

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