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Pacific Surfliner northbound

The Pacific Surfliner rolls north along the scenic coastal route connecting San Diego with San Luis Obispo. A new interregional council aims to improve passenger rail service along the coastal route.

Santa Barbara County Association of Governments has joined forces with four other county transportation planning agencies to improve passenger rail service along the coastal route.

After 25 years as a consensus-building coalition, the Coast Rail Coordinating Council was formally established through a memorandum of understanding, a council spokesman said.

The mission of the council is improving the frequency, speed, reliability and ease of use of passenger trains on the coastal route between San Francisco and Los Angeles, the spokesman said.

In addition to SBCAG, the new rail council includes the San Luis Obispo Council of Governments, the Santa Cruz County Regional Transportation Commission, the Transportation Agency for Monterey County and the Ventura County Transportation Commission.

“This is an important step toward planning and implementing robust passenger rail service along the Central Coast and throughout California,” said former Monterey County Supervisor Dave Potter.

“Improving routes, frequency and schedules along our coast will provide locals, tourists and commuters with a breadth of transportation options for exploring the Central Coast and California as a whole, while also boosting economic development for many coastal communities that need it,” Potter said.

The interregional forum discusses issues of mutual concern, including intercity rail plans, local and state rail plans, freight railroad issues and capital improvement projects, Potter said.

Member agencies’ planning staff meet regularly, and the Policy Committee made up of elected or previously elected officials representing each agency meets four to five times per year.

Agenda items can be accessed on the Coast Rail Coordinating Council webpage housed on the SLOCOG website at www.slocog.org/programs/public-transportation/rail/coast-rail-coordinating-council-crcc.

Recent Coast Rail Coordinating Council actions include two rail extension projects already underway to ease commuter congestion on Highway 101 and encourage tourism.

One is the Grover Beach rail extension project that will incorporate a bus passenger loading and unloading area, additional parking and improved accessibility for providing direct connections to San Luis Obispo, Los Angeles, and San Diego on Amtrak’s Pacific Surfliner.

The other is the Salinas rail extension project that will offer two weekday round-trip passenger trains from Salinas to Gilroy, San Jose and San Francisco.

In addition, the council has been working with the Caltrans Rail Program, Amtrak and Union Pacific to initiate a new train from downtown San Francisco to downtown Los Angeles.

Working with Caltrans, the council is programming $11.3 million in Federal Railroad Administration grant funds to design and install positive train control signal systems at 30 existing control points and 111 intermediate signal locations from Oakland to San Luis Obispo.

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