Commuter train service ahead for Salinas

Aug 13, 2018

Work is underway on a local passenger rail project. It will create commuter train service from Salinas.

The project has been in the works for more than two decades. Still, Christina Watson with the Transportation Agency for Monterey County says some don’t know about it.

“So, every time I talk to somebody, the first question is always, ‘when is that going to happen?’ The other question is, ‘is that really going to happen?’” Watson said.

Now, the Principal Transportation Planner can finally say ‘yes’.

The Salinas Rail Extension Project officially broke ground Thursday. It will mean commuter train service between Salinas and San Jose.

Right now, the Salinas Train Station does offer Amtrak service between Los Angeles and Seattle. But that caters to people who are not trying to get somewhere quickly. Salinas Councilwoman Kimbley Craig said this new service will be the type commuters could use daily.

“We're excited because it now enables residents to be able to get to work or go up to a concert in San Jose,” said Craig.

Service to San Jose is expected to begin in 2020. California Assemblywoman Anna Caballero said she’s been working to connect rural parts of California to public transportation routes.

“So that we don't have to build bigger and bigger freeways. So that we can really focus on moving people in ways that are better for the environment, that reduce greenhouse gases,” said Caballero.

The service will begin with two daily round trips. The first train will leave around 5am and the second around 6am. They will return to Salinas around 6:45 pm and 8:16 pm. The goal is to eventually increase the daily round trips to six and add service to San Francisco. The plan is to do that by extending the Caltrain service line. It currently runs between SF and Gilroy.

This $81 million project also includes a major renovation of the Salinas Train Station. Construction work begins this week. The project is funded by the state and about $10 million came from the gas tax (SB1).

Down the road, the hope is to build a new station in Pajaro that could connect to the proposed Santa Cruz service line. And to build a new station in Castroville, that would connect to the proposed Monterey Light Rail.