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Caltrans Receives $55 Million to Reduce Congestion, Improve Safety on Pacific Surfliner

Federal grants will fund work on the intercity rail corridor between Los Angeles and San Diego

Caltrans announced Wednesday that the Federal Railroad Administration has awarded three grants totaling $55 million to reduce congestion and increase safety on the Pacific Surfliner intercity rail corridor between Los Angeles and San Diego.

“More Californians are choosing trains for travel, and Caltrans is committed to ensuring a safe ride for all our passengers,” Caltrans Acting Director Malcolm Dougherty said.

About $38 million will fund a final segment of a third rail track between Los Angeles and Fullerton. The Pacific Surfliner, Metrolink and freight trains currently share two rail tracks, which can create congestion and delays. In addition, $3.4 million will fund new track construction at the Oceanside station to move Metrolink commuter trains off the mainline, and $13.5 million will fund a Global Positioning System-based signaling system, known as Positive Train Control, which will increase railroad safety by monitoring and controlling trains to prevent collisions and derailments.

The implementation of PTC is mandated for all rail providers by 2015 by the federal Rail Safety Improvement Act.

In a partnering effort, the Southern California Regional Rail Authority, which operates Metrolink, will install the PTC system on tracks between San Onofre and Moorpark, where Metrolink shares the line with the Pacific Surfliner. The state will match the federal funds for the PTC dollar-for-dollar with 2009 Proposition 1A rail bond funds, increasing the project’s funding to $27 million.

“Metrolink is grateful to the leaders, who demonstrated their commitment to rail safety by allocating these funds,” Metrolink Chairman Richard Katz said. “Our program is now fully funded, and Metrolink is well on our way to being the first commuter rail agency in the nation to implement Positive Train Control.”

“Enhancing our commuter rail service is a critical component in ensuring Southern California’s transportation network can carry us successfully into the future,” said Will Kempton, CEO of the Orange County Transportation Authority. “We are thankful for the strong partnership we have forged with the federal government and appreciate the continued support of our ongoing efforts to improve safety and mobility in the region.”

The Federal Railroad Administration also recently awarded California $68 million in Recovery Act funding for intercity trains servicing intercity routes. The funding is part of a multistate procurement among California, Michigan, Iowa, Illinois, Missouri and Washington to pool resources, maximizing the purchase of next-generation American-made trains. In an unprecedented interstate partnership, Caltrans will take the lead in purchasing the rail cars and locomotives for all states, resulting in lower costs for all states involved because the equipment will be acquired in high volume under one contract.

Along with $100 million from a previously awarded grant to California, the funding will enable Caltrans to purchase 27 rail cars for the Pacific Surfliner, 15 rail cars and four locomotives for the San Joaquin corridor, and 10 rail cars and two locomotives for the Capitol Corridor.

Under the Amtrak California banner, Caltrans funds three of the five busiest intercity passenger rail routes in the Amtrak system: the Pacific Surfliner corridor (ranked second), the Capitol Corridor (ranked third) and the San Joaquin corridor (ranked fifth). Caltrans is on track to break its all-time ridership record of 5.58 million passengers boarding Amtrak California trains in the next few months.

— Matt Rocco represents Caltrans.

 
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