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San Joaquin Rail Committee meeting report

The meeting started with several local (Merced, Mariposa) speakers advocating service to/from Yosemite. One speaker from Mariposa Cnty was endeavoring to gain a seat on the committee (being considered) . A visual presentation was made entitled “Blueprint for San Joaquin Valley” which includes all the counties. The big pitch was control of air polluton and need for improved public transit. This was a good lead into the “Resolution for Rail” on the UP line in Tulare Cnty (Holscher). This could be “dovetailed” into “The Blueprint”. The “Resolution” was tabled and will be on the next mtg agenda. In the interim, there will be dialogue with UP, Division of Rail, SJVRC (as suggested by UP rep Jerry Wilmoth who was in attendance).

Rick Depler of BNSF stated that OTP was up to 88 to 92% and they predict 95% soon. Asked how the OTP was improved, he replied “thru dispatcher stabilization”, i.e. utilizeing dispatchers familiar with the territory and keeping them there. A tie (85k) and rail (120k ft) replacement program between Stktn and Bkrsfield will commence Jan 14 and finish Feb 15. Work scheduled to minimize slow orders . Electronic Train Management System (ETMS) moving along (in Tx) Expect FRA approval shortly.

Bill Bronte, Chief, Division of Rail reported that the San Joaquins surpassed the Capitols in ridership gain last month (7 1/2%). Fuel prices are cutting into fare box return bigtime. Plans for a joint mtg of all Bds (CCJPB, SJVRC, LOSSAN, CRCC, SANDAG etc) to coincide with APTA in San Jose in Oct. to gin up support and sign a letter of support of S1516 (80/20 Capital Grants).

Chair Hall, who is also Mayor of Bakersfield, reported that he had held successful meetings in his office with BNSF, DoR and SJVRC members to gain a good understanding of problems and to achieve solutions. It is this writers opinion that Mayor Hall is a definite asset and makes a very positive contribution to this committee.

Bad News: Chair Hall announced that Eric Schatmeier of Division of Rail is leaving and will join Marin County where he will lead a new Transportation Planning Group. Eric has been the Marketing Group leader for the San Joaquins these past years. Prior to coming to DoR he was with Caltrain.

Posted in sierraclub, transportation.

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