Our View: Gridlock and the golden age of rail
Gridlock, motorists sleeping on cots in an old Truckee school, frustration among locals and accidental visitors alike: As long as Mother Nature is around and people want to drive over Interstate 80 in the winter, what we witnessed during our last big storm will continue.
Perhaps its time to revisit the idea of round-trip passenger rail service four times daily between Oakland and Sparks, Nev with stops on Donner Summit and in Truckee. A reliably scheduled rail system tied to burgeoning local bus and trolley services, particularly during the winter ski season, would surely help get autos off the interstate.
The long-standing hurdle, however, is Union Pacific Railroad. UP owns the tracks over the Sierra and is more focused on its freight business than dealing with passenger service beyond allowing the once-a-day passage of the sometimes-on-time Amtrak California Zephyr.
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s push for a transportation bond that voters approved in November designates $400 million for intercity rail. With the success of the Capitol Corridor trains running between Sacramento and the Bay Area; The Pacific Surfliner between San Diego and San Luis Obispo; and the San Joaquins running between Sacramento and Bakersfield, it is time to add another set of silver rails over the Sierra for passenger use.
Businesses and governments in the North Lake Tahoe-Truckee region, as well as Reno-Sparks, must work to line up political and financial support for the Capitol Corridor extension sometime in the future. Union Pacific won’t add rail on its own, but if public money ” and persuasion from the governor ” is forthcoming the railroad might be willing to share in an upgrade of its right of way.
Schwarzenegger has a great vision for California. What could be better than returning it to its golden age of rail?
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