FAIRFIELD — Solano County is looking to update its rail plan, with the idea of passenger trains someday going from Suisun City to Napa and Vallejo still alive.
“The last time we really looked at rail was 2001,” Solano Transportation Authority Executive Director Daryl Halls said Monday. “It’s been a long time.”
The Solano Transportation Authority plans to discuss the possible rail plan update at an upcoming meeting. The $50,000 cost for the new plan is to be paid using state funds.
Tracks already run from Suisun City and Cordelia through Jameson Canyon and then split near American Canyon, with one segment heading north through the Napa Valley and another south through Vallejo to Mare Island. These tracks are used for freight service and, in Napa, by the Napa Valley Wine Train for tourist excursions.
Nobody is talking about starting a Suisun City/Napa/Vallejo passenger service anytime soon. But transportation leaders don’t want to rule out the possibility that such a service could happen.
One idea is to preserve the railroad right of way, Halls said. If right of way is lost, it’s difficult to get back, he said.
The Solano Transportation Authority and Napa County Transportation Planning Agency did a $250,000 study a decade ago on a possible Suisun City/Napa/Vallejo train service. It concluded a bus service would be more cost-efficient.
A Solano County rail study would look at other possible passenger service expansion as well.
Solano County’s major rail line is the Union Pacific tracks that run down the county’s center. The Capitol Corridor passenger service uses these tracks on its runs between Sacramento and San Jose, with the lone Solano County stop at the Suisun City station.
A Fairfield-Vacaville station near Vanden Road is to open within a few years. The Capitol Corridor service has approved this stop.
Dixon and Benicia are also candidates for possible train stops. Dixon in 2006 built a $1 million replica of its historic, long-gone train station with the hopes of one day getting passenger service.
But winning Capitol Corridor approval for a passenger train stop is more involved that simply having a station.
Adding a Capitol Corridor stop can add five minutes to the route running time, Halls said. In the case of the Fairfield-Vacaville station stop, that meant getting money for track improvements elsewhere so trains could run faster and make up for that lost time.
Also, Union Pacific wants to eliminate at-grade crossings as train stations are added. Union Pacific owns the tracks and runs freight service.
For the Fairfield-Vacaville station, that prompted Fairfield’s upcoming project to take Peabody Road over the tracks on a bridge. Halls noted that Dixon has started work on a pedestrian and bicycle underpass near its train station.
An updated Solano County Rail Facilities Plan would take into account the things that have happened in the local railroad world since 2001.
“Our data is 12 years old,” Halls said. “Things change.”
The Technical Advisory Committee is made up of public works representatives from the county and its seven cities. It could recommend to the Solano Transportation Authority board whether to seek a consultant to do county a Rail Facilities Plan update.
Solano County’s existing Rail Facilities Plan was done in 1995. A plan looking at the Capitol Corridor service was done in 2001, with the first study on Suisun/Napa/Vallejo service done at about the same time.
Reach Barry Eberling at 427-6929 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/beberlingdr.