All aboard! California rail plan looks to cut pollution, driving miles

320px-FLV_California_train[1]Saturday (July 20, 2013) I, like a wealth of other day trippers, set foot upon the land made famous by John Steinbeck – the Monterey Peninsula. I believe traffic there bore that out. Congestion was particularly heavy especially during the early evening hours as I was caught up in that crush heading home.

As a side note, for the past couple days, the San Joaquin Valley has been baking in heat with lung-searing ozone (O3) to boot. Temperature in Fresno yesterday soared; 106 was predicted. Air Quality Index (AQI) was forecast to be 129 (Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups).

While temperatures today are predicted to fall four degrees 132 is the forecasted AQI.

Now, about all that departing, presumably, Valley-bound nighttime traffic yesterday, it was backed up for miles, bumper-to-bumper, on not just California state route (SR) 156 through and east of Castroville (artichoke capital of the world), but also on Pacific Coast Highway (SR-1) at the same place and time. What’s wrong with this picture?!

A better way, absolutely

Between where SR’s 1 and 156 intersect (Castroville) and Sand City parallel to SR-1, one can’t help but notice the rusty, forlorn tracks of the abandoned former Southern Pacific Monterey branch line at certain locales, which, at one time, reached all the way into Pacific Grove, and wonder why rails go unused. In fact, at places, rails and rail-bed are covered by asphalt.

I understand perhaps as well as anyone that if all goes as planned, there will come a day when high-speed, regional and light rail systems will make passenger train travel in the Golden State the envy of and model for other states. And what this will do for California’s central coast region in particular is ensure seamless and joyous rides for passenger train patrons traveling to and from Monterey.

In fact, Gilroy – the world’s garlic capital – will serve as a major intermodal transfer station receiving high-speed trains from the San Francisco Bay Area, Sacramento, southern California and the Valley and regional passenger trains from points north, south, east and west. Meanwhile, rail-bridging Castroville and Monterey will be light rail transit. As a result, time-consuming and burdensome drives for many will be eliminated.

Incidentally, the several hours I spent at Asilomar State Beach I saw many a visitor, native and foreign alike.

For more, see: Transportation Agency for Monterey County Rail Program here and the California State Rail Plan here.

All aboard!

– Alan Kandel