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Councilman advocates for more rail service 

Fred Strong

Fred Strong

Paso Robles City Councilman Fred Strong advocated last week at the State Capitol for better passenger rail service to the city and throughout the state.

He testified on Wednesday, March 19, at the State’s Senate Select Committee On Passenger Rail with other transportation representatives. “We are trying to get passenger trains running from LA to San Jose,” says Strong. “That would include a stop in Paso Robles.”

Councilman Strong serves on several rail and transportation related boards. He represents the city of Paso Robles at the San Luis Obispo Council of Governments (SLOCOG) which coordinates planning and transportation in the county. He represents SLOCOG on the Pacific Surfliner’s rail authority LOSSAN, where he is chairman. He also serves as an alternate on the board of the Coast Rail Coordinating Council.

“We are planning now so we can have those trains on the rails in four to five years,” he says. There is currently service from San Diego to San Luis Obispo with the Pacific Surfliner Train, there is a gap between San Luis Obispo to San Jose, he says. He would like to see one train traveling north and another one traveling south every day. The Pacific Surfliner corridor is the second largest in passengers carried in the United States behind the Northeast Corridor which goes from Boston to New York to Washington D.C.

The committee, chaired by Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson, D-Santa Barbara, heard from Strong and representatives from other active rail corridors in the state including the San Joaquin and Capitol corridors. When Jackson formed the committee in January she said, “Passenger rail reduces congestion and vehicle emissions and helps us move people and goods efficiently. With a select committee like this, I’m hoping we can help give existing and future passenger and commuter rail projects the policy attention and priority they deserve.”

Only about 50-percent of passenger rail service income comes from ticket sales, Strong says. The rest is subsidized by state. The cost was $108 million in 2013 and expected to be $123 million for 2014, he says. Strong says passenger rail is a wise investment. “We take off the road the equivalent of one lane of traffic on Interstate 5,” he says.

Benefits of the state’s intercity passenger rail program

  • 355 million miles of vehicle traffic reduced annually
  • $175 million in wages paid
  • 109 million pounds of CO2 emissions reduced annually

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About the author: Publisher Scott Brennan

Scott Brennan is the publisher of this newspaper and founder of Access Publishing. Follow him on Twitter, LinkedIn, or follow his blog.