The California gas tax that took effect on November 1 is raising money for transportation projects across the state. Cities, towns and counties are applying for grants under SB1, the law that established the tax increase. A big focus of the state department of transportation, Caltrans, is to increase rail service in many places.
King City in southern Monterey County wants to be on that list. City and county officials are working to get Amtrak’s Coast Starlight train to stop in King City. And stop at a rebuilt train station, said Mayor Mike LeBarre.
“Like all early California cities, when the train station came to King City, it built our city, that was the impetus for us to grow,” LeBarre said. “What we see this as, is reestablishing that historic stop.”
LeBarre said having the train stop in King City and more train service enables the small city of about 14,200 to participate in meeting California greenhouse gas emission reduction goals. It will allow residents who don’t have cars to get out of the Salinas Valley, and bring more tourists to the town, one of the gateways to Pinnacles National Park.
LeBarre said Amtrak did a recent study looking at King City and Soledad as possible future stops for coastal train service.
“They had some estimates of timetables, which basically showed that we could get from King City to San Francisco...in about a three hour and 15 minute trip, which to me is very auto-competitive,” LeBarre said. “Especially if you factor in the [Bay Area] traffic.”
King City will find out in April if it’s going to receive the gas tax funding. If it does, LeBarre said the city will immediately start planning what will be a multi-modal station, so passengers could be boarding at train at the King City station within five years.