Our View: Get the service started | SierraSun.com

Our View: Get the service started

We’re not going to get off track on this idea: The Capitol Corridor rail service needs to be extended over the Sierra.

Yes, gas prices have dropped a bit, but the decrease in miles driven ” 40.5 billion fewer than normal since November ” during the period of skyrocketing fuel costs shows that Americans can indeed separate themselves from their autos.

And Northern Californians are even more likely to do so if numbers released by Capitol Corridor officials are any indication. In June, more than 145,000 passengers rode the Capitol Corridor trains between San Jose and Auburn, a nearly 17 percent increase over June 2007. July was even more busy, officials said, with an astounding 33 percent increase in ridership.

As we’ve said many times before in this space, extending the Capitol Corridor into the mountains with multiple, daily stops at Donner Summit, Truckee and Reno has many benefits, including eliminating some of the nasty gridlock that sets in during winter storms.

Now with escalating gas prices there is another reason to get the service started. And it’s not like this would be starting from scratch. The service would be operating off the reliability and timeliness that the Capitol Corridor has already proven it can sustain.

Yes, we know Union Pacific must buy into increased passenger rail traffic on their lines over the Sierra. Hopefully UP and the California Transportation Commission’s $86.8 million-effort to construct 9.3 miles of second main track and to increase tunnel clearances for double-stacked freight trains on Donner Summit will allow for some cooperation.

And thanks to California voters who approved $400 million in bonds a few years ago to improve the state’s rail system, the Capitol Corridor will spend $125 million to purchase more rail cars and locomotives to meet increasing ridership ” let’s hope some of that equipment will soon be heading over the Sierra.

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