2018 California State Rail Plan - FAQ

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A: The 2018 Rail Plan will present a vision and strategies for California’s passenger and freight rail network of the future that will guide implementation of an integrated passenger rail network and investments supporting movement of freight by rail. It is an important element in the comprehensive examination of statewide transportation investment strategies tied to the 2040 California Transportation Plan.

The Rail Plan fulfills state and federal rail plan requirements:

  • The Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act of 2008 is a federal law requiring state rail plans to be developed and updated every five years in order to be eligible for federal passenger rail funding.
  • California Government Code Section 14036 requires the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) to prepare a state rail plan that is consistent with federal requirements and some additional state requirements.

The Rail Plan will contain the following major components:

  • A statewide vision for an integrated passenger rail system that describes how different rail services will work together to deliver a comprehensive network that is well connected with the State’s multimodal transportation system, providing frequent, convenient service;
  • A current system inventory identifying needs and deficiencies;
  • A description of reasonable funding options for achieving the 2040 vision;
  • A list of improvements and a detailed investment strategy tied to 5 year (2022), 10 year (2028) and long-term horizon year (2040) timeframes;
  • A description on how these improvements would support and reflect other state, regional and local planning activities throughout California.

The Rail Plan is a companion to the California Transportation Plan:

  • The 2040 California Transportation Plan will position Caltrans to respond to legislative requirements of Senate Bill 391. This bill requires that the California Transportation Plan meet the State’s climate change goals under Assembly Bill 32 and Senate Bill 375. Key strategies for achieving maximum feasible emissions reduction to attain California’s greenhouse gas goals include the construction of high-speed rail and expansion of public transit, commuter rail, and intercity rail systems.
  • Thus, the Rail Plan will be consistent with 2040 California Transportation Plan policies for the State’s future rail system to meet the requirements of Senate Bill 391 and will provide an assessment of greenhouse gas emissions for the planned future rail systems.

A: California is the 6th largest economy in the world, with and annual gross domestic product of over $2.4 trillion and a population projected to increase to approximately 50 million by 2050 causing continued pressure on the State’s aging transportation infrastructure. To meet the challenges of this growth and avoid the negative ramifications, the Rail Plan will help define a more sustainable transportation system for the future. It will identify rail transportation alternatives that can provide relief to highway and air transportation congestion.

Improvements and expansion of California’s rail system will have a positive effect on the future mobility and environmental health, and economic vitality of the state. It is envisioned that greater use of the rail system will take millions of cars and trucks off the road that would otherwise be additional contributors to air pollution. California passenger rail ridership (intercity and commuter) increased by 44% between 2005 and 2015. Ridership numbers continue to grow each year and greater use of rail will contribute to improved air quality by reducing vehicle miles traveled and vehicle emissions. It will also reduce fuel consumption and can reduce the need for highway construction.

The Rail Plan outlines a Vision and strategic implementation plan so that by 2040, Californians will have access to an integrated, state-of-the-art rail system that will revolutionize personal mobility and enhance quality of life. It will increase safety, improve the environment and livability and enhance the economy.

A: Preparation of the Rail Plan began in July 2015. A draft of the State Rail Plan will be available to the public for review in fall 2017. Responses to public comments will be included in the final Rail Plan which will be issued in spring 2018.

Project Timeline

Step Timeframe
Visioning process, passenger rail service planning, and technical work Fall 2015 – June 2016
Public survey to gather input on priorities for the Rail Plan* Winter 2015/2016
Release of CHSRA Business Plan
*(CSRP Technical development timed to incorporate the next CHSRA Business Plan)
May 2016
Complete technical work, and chapter and draft document July 2016-May 2017
Release of Public Review Draft* October 11, 2017
Public Comment Period* 60 Days, October 10 - December 11, 2017
Revision of Draft Winter 2017/2018
Document review and approval process (CTC, CalSTA, FRA) and Submittal to Legislature Spring 2018

* Opportunities for public input

A: The Rail Plan will be used as a planning tool for improving the overall state rail system. It will provide a long-term strategy that will enable Caltrans, the California High-Speed Rail Authority, intercity and commuter rail operators, freight railroads, and communities to plan for the future. The Rail Plan is intended to prioritize state funding and actions for integrating the statewide rail network.

A: The project website (www.californiastaterailplan.com) will be updated with the latest project information as it is developed. You can use the website to join the project email list to receive future notifications and updates.

Contact Information

Mailing Address:

California Department of Transportation (Caltrans)
Division of Rail and Mass Transportation
2018 California State Rail Plan
Rail Planning Branch

1120 N Street, MS 74
Sacramento, CA 95814

General Information:

Email: RailPlan@dot.ca.gov