California adds to growing passenger rail networks

high speed rail

The US Department of Transportation is giving $135 million to expand the city of Sacramento’s Light Rail Blue Line. The expansion will link downtown Sacramento with the rapidly growing South Sacramento neighborhood. Ridership on Sacramento’s existing light rail system rose by 7.4 percent between Fiscal Year 2011 and Fiscal Year 2012, and the area population is expected to grow steadily over the next five years as the local economy continues to improve.

According to Sacramento Regional Transit, which operates the line, the extension project will generate 1,000 jobs or more over the next two years. The project extends the Blue Line light rail line 4.3 miles from Meadowview Road to Cosumnes River College and includes four new stations at Morrison Creek, Franklin Boulevard, Center Parkway and the college.

The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) is funding 50 percent of the $270 million project through its New Starts Program. DOT provided an additional $7.1 million; the remaining cost will be covered by state and local funding.

The Sacramento expansion has received several funding awards for its rapid expansion. In June 2012, Secretary LaHood announced that DOT would provide $15 million through its Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant program to rehabilitate the Sacramento Valley Rail Station, an intermodal transit hub connected to the Sacramento Light Rail Gold Line. FTA provided $111.2 million, or half the total cost, of the South Corridor (Blue Line) light rail starter line, which began operations in 2003.

In addition to the Sacramento rail line network, CivSource reported in November that a project to connect Los Angeles to San Francisco via high speed rail is moving forward after gaining federal approval and overcoming a court challenge. The 800 mile project is one of the most ambitious public infrastructure projects currently underway in the US.