In California, a rail renaissance is underway. Ridership is approaching record levels. Growing numbers of Californians find train travel to be a smart transportation option as gas prices climb and freeways become more congested. Exciting plans are in the works to improve train service throughout the state and construct our nation’s first dedicated high-speed train system. Currently, Caltrans is developing a plan that will present the vision and strategies for building California’s rail network for the future.
California State Rail Plan
The California State Rail Plan will establish a vision, set priorities, and present implementation strategies to enhance passenger and freight rail service in the public interest. The State Rail Plan will be the first planning document that fully integrates the planned California High-Speed Rail system with existing and proposed conventional rail systems. It will be a critical document for successful development and implementation of the California High-Speed Rail Authority’s “blended system” which will combine high-speed rail and improved conventional rail. The State Rail Plan will serve as a basis for federal and state investments for high-speed and intercity passenger rail in California. The vision, priorities, and strategies will support the State’s goal of an integrated multimodal transportation system.
Caltrans is required to prepare a 10-year State Rail Plan that includes a passenger and freight element. In addition, a new federal law, the Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act (PRIIA), requires that state rail plans be developed and updated every five years. Caltrans recently received more than $3 million in High-Speed Intercity Passenger Rail (HSIPR) grants from the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) to produce the California State Rail Plan and the Service Development Plans.
Caltrans will produce Service Development Plans for the existing Pacific Surfliner and San Joaquin routes and the proposed Coast Daylight route. Service Development Plans for California High-Speed Rail and the Capitol Corridor will also be incorporated into the State Rail Plan. These Service Development Plans will identify capital projects, operations plans, proposed funding sources, and planning timeframes for each of the rail corridors. They will also provide the criteria for corridor improvements that will be proposed in the State Rail Plan.
The California State Rail Plan Will…
- Describe existing conditions of the state’s passenger and freight rail systems including infrastructure and service levels, needs and deficiencies.
- Present a clear picture of the role rail plays in key passenger and freight markets.
- Describe the blended system concept for high-speed rail and conventional intercity and commuter rail, planned for implementation in 2018.
- Describe the planned rail system and the economic and environmental benefits of freight and passenger rail improvements.
- Incorporate plans from California commuter rail authorities.
The State Rail Plan will also be prepared in parallel with the California Interregional Blueprint Interim Report, which will present strategies for integrating all transportation modes throughout the state, including air travel, roads and highways, ports, transit, passenger trains and freight rail.
A draft California State Rail Plan is scheduled to be available to the public for review in early 2013. Public comments will be considered in development of the final State Rail Plan, which is planned for completion in mid 2013.