Commentary: Press U.P. For More Trains

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(Sacramento, CA)
Friday, September 26, 2008

Currently only one local passenger train a day travels between Auburn, Roseville, Sacramento and the Bay area. That’s not enough. Transportation planners would like to see at least 10 round trips to Roseville every day and four round trips to Auburn.

But Union Pacific Railroad, which owns the track, won’t give the public passenger rail system access. There was hope that might change when UP asked for state bond money to improve the railroad’s tunnels and tracks over Donner Summit. In exchange for public funds, the state insisted that UP allow more passenger trains on its tracks in Placer County.

After months of negotiation, UP sent a letter to the governor flatly rejecting the offer. The railroad said it’s giving up on state help, and will use private funds exclusively for its Donner summit project.

The state must not give up. UP may not need public funds for Donner summit, but it has many other projects in the works. At almost every juncture UP will need cooperation from some governmental agency, federal, state or local.

That’s leverage. If passenger rail is to expand and improve in California, government needs to use whatever leverage it has to get better cooperation from the railroad.


Ginger Rutland writes for The Sacramento Bee opinion pages.