published on May 12, 2016 - 9:54 PM
Written by The Business Journal Staff

A report released today by the nonprofit organization TRIP, a national transportation research group founded in 1971, identifies the critical value the Amtrak San Joaquins line plays for California residents — and the state’s economy.

TRIP provides data about transportation projects and policies that help to relieve traffic congestion, improve surface travel, road and bridge conditions, and reduce the impact on air quality, while also promoting economic development and quality of life for Californians.

Their new report, “Project Green Light: Moving California’s Critical Transportation Improvements Forward,” addresses 125 transportation improvements in California that are critically needed in the four major urban areas as well as projects across the state. The projects detailed in the report are those that are able to improve the quality of life for California residents, spur and enhance economic growth and competitiveness, and encourage job growth.

Each project was rated as having a green, yellow or red light, to indicate whether it has adequate funding, partial funding or limited or no funding available over the next five years.

In the “California Statewide” category, the report identifies enhanced service on the Amtrak San Joaquins passenger rail line as one of the top 20 most important priorities.

The project is rated yellow because full funding is not yet available to meet the full need to improve service between Bakersfield, Oakland, Stockton and Sacramento. The project would increase the number of daily round trips, implement track and signal improvements and improve stations along the route, and in turn, improve passenger train frequencies and reliability and passenger safety.

Amtrak officials have acted on this need for increased service and frequency, and will begin operation this summer of a seventh daily round trip for the Amtrak San Joaquins between Oakland and Bakersfield.

To increase frequency and operations along the line further, including new trips into Sacramento and the Bay Area, additional funding must be secured for capital improvements, equipment, and operating funds.

“We are pleased to see the TRIP report reinforces the importance of our rail service across the heart of California, and we appreciate its call for increased funding and support as a critical statewide priority,” said Merced County Supervisor John Pedrozo, chairman of the San Joaquin Joint Powers Authority. “Our new seventh daily round-trip takes an important step in that direction of providing our riders with added frequency and convenience. The report emphasizes the value of the Amtrak San Joaquins line for the greater state economy and residents’ quality of life.”

The report noted that California’s population has increased 16 percent since 2000 — and vehicle miles traveled in the state increased by 9 percent from 2000 to 2014.

Increased population and increased travel puts pressure on our state’s existing transportation infrastructure. It creates the urgent need for projects like enhancing the Amtrak San Joaquins service to improve mobility and increase travel options. Station improvements will also help Amtrak San Joaquins better integrate with California’s high speed rail line and local transit systems.

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