Santa Paula Times

Santa Paula Branch Line Rail Project reps meeting with stakeholders

December 30, 2005
Santa Paula News

Early in the game, the Fillmore City Council has questioned the type of freight that might be coming through the Santa Clara River Valley if the Santa Paula Branch Line Rail Project (SPBLRP) becomes a reality.

By Peggy KellySanta Paula TimesEarly in the game, the Fillmore City Council has questioned the type of freight that might be coming through the Santa Clara River Valley if the Santa Paula Branch Line Rail Project (SPBLRP) becomes a reality.Ventura County Transportation Commission Executive Director Ginger Gherardi, a representative of the SPBLRP, was asked by Fillmore councilmembers to check if the freight component of a new line would include any liquid natural gas from an offshore facility near Oxnard, an unrelated project now going through the application process. At the meeting, Fillmore council members said the possible inclusion of any such dangerous rail freight through their city would factor in their decision whether or not to support such a project that would turn the river valley into a major artery for goods and commuters.The SPBLRP Advisory Committee held their second meeting late last month at the Depot in Santa Paula. Stakeholder meetings have been held with the Port of Hueneme, the Ventura County Railroad Company, the City of Port Hueneme, Newhall Land Company, Fillmore & Western Railway and the City of Santa Clarita, with meetings planned with the cities of Oxnard and Ventura as well as the Ventura County Watershed Protection District, hoped to be completed by the end of the year.At the latest advisory committee meeting, consultant Richard Dial outlined the draft Issues Tracking Matrix, a document developed to record and follow the status of issues and concerns raised by stakeholders and others throughout the study process. The matrix will help identify areas of common concern, highlight the appropriate agency to resolve the issues, and provide a brief summary and background for the issue that, once addressed or resolved, will be updated on the matrix.
The study, funded by the Southern California Association of Governments, has already completed a draft inventory of existing physical conditions along the branch line that stretches throughout the river valley. Key findings include the need to upgrade track, clear vegetation and improve drainage. Many of the bridges along the line must be replaced or refurbished, with new bridges constructed in the section of the line that was previously abandoned.Gherardi requested a prioritized list of projects for planning purposes. Possible hydraulic bridge deficiencies at Adams Canyon, Sespe Creek and Hopper Canyon were also identified as an issue for study.An inventory of existing and planned rail uses detailed all rail services currently operating as well as that those that could be part of new branch line operations, including passenger, recreational, and freight services. The inventory also included the uses on the Ventura County Railroad Line from Oxnard to Port Hueneme, the CoastLine (Metrolink’s Ventura County Line), and Metrolink’s Santa Clarita-based Antelope Valley Line. Passenger rail services on the Santa Paula Branch Line could also serve as a potential feeder to Amtrak’s intercity services.Next up for the study is developing options for passenger and freight rail services, passenger ridership forecasts and equipment needs to meet the demand of same, and forecasts of potential freight rail demand. Corridor cities and other stakeholders will meet with rail project team leaders individually to garner comments on the proposed use scenarios.The next Advisory Committee meeting will be held February 22, 10 a.m. at the Depot.