While the state plans a high-speed rail line from San Francisco to San Diego, local transportation agencies are reviewing several projects that could connect to the statewide line and speed up public transit around the county.
The Transportation Agency of Monterey County is looking into possibilities for the old Del Monte branch rail line that ran from Castroville to Monterey. Once owned by Southern Pacific Railroad, then sold to Union Pacific Railroad and finally to TAMC, the railroad is largely intact along its right-of-way (though parts have been paved over).
One of TAMC’s proposed alternatives is a “bus rapid transit” (BRT) service, which would operate like a normal bus but likely run in its own right of way, bypassing traffic. Another alternative is a light rail line, which is a modern trolley, but preferably without cables. Unlike commuter rail, light rail has a flexible design that allows it to operate in a street. The BRT or light rail vehicles would be low-emission and possibly hybrid electric.
TAMC hopes to adopt one of the alternatives by the end of the summer. If the money falls into place and the project moves forward, local BRT or light-rail service could be in place by 2014.
Either system could combine with an inter-city rail, allowing passengers to ride the Monterey branch line into Castroville, and then to the Bay Area. Once the Caltrain extension between Salinas and Gilroy is complete, Salinas residents likewise would be able to connect to the planned high-speed rail.
Monterey-Salinas Transit is working on another bus rapid transit line that would run along Lighthouse and Del Monte avenues, stop at the downtown Monterey transit plaza, and head toward Seaside and Sand City via Fremont Boulevard.
TAMC also is looking into a BRT service in the Fort Ord area along the inter-Garrison corridor, ultimately connecting to Salinas via the Reservation Road/Davis Road corridor.
Currently, locals can take public transit to the San Francisco Bay Area via the MST line from downtown Monterey to San Jose, and then via Caltrain; or on Amtrak’s Coast Starlight line – currently the only passenger rail service in the county – from the Salinas station.
Source: TAMC Deputy Executive Director Don Bachman
How Bonds Work
Municipal bonds, such as general obligation bonds, are issued by state and local governments to finance public-interest projects. In the case of state government, investors lend the state funds, with the state promising to repay the principal, plus interest, over an agreed-upon number of years. The bonds are guaranteed by the government agency issuing them. In California, taxpayers repay the debt generated by the bond sale to investors through the state budget. The state budget is funded through taxes, including personal income, sales, corporation, tobacco, insurance and liquor.
Source: Bill Maxfield, spokesman for Assemblyman John Laird and communications director for the Assembly Budget Committee