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Gray Davis on Trains

Observations from the Edge
Robert T. Nanninga
North County Times
January 14, 2003


With all the talk of California's budget deficit I'm concerned Governor Gray Davis, in an attempt to present himself as a fiscal conservative, will withdraw funds allocated for the expansion of mass transit systems. To prevent the San Diego region from adapting infrastructure to meet the transportation needs of an ever-increasing population, would be a step in the wrong direction.

It is clear that California's $34.8 billion budgetary shortfall is a result of the manufactured energy crisis of 2001, as well as Governor Davis's reaction to it. Regardless of past mismanagement it makes no sense to compound the problem by cannibalizing hard won transportation policy and funding.

Recognizing mass transit to be vital to the economic well being of San Diego County, the North County Transit District has shown considerable vision by reestablishing passenger train service to the communities of Oceanside, Vista, San Marcos, and Escondido. This effort will also benefit students at Palomar College and Cal State San Marcos, as stations will be situated next to those campuses. With both institutions of higher learning experiencing impressive growth, reliable train service will alleviate a great deal of traffic congestion.

At this writing 60 million dollars has been spent on planning the East-West line. The project design is complete, right-of-way has been purchased, environmental documents complete, permits obtained, and construction activities begun. To discontinue work on this much-needed transportation upgrade makes absolutely no economic sense.

This project is literally days away from receiving its Federal Full Funding Grant Agreement. All commuters' need is Governor Davis to keep his end of agreement, and provide the $80 million in state Transportation Congestion Relief Program (TCRP) funds. The Federal government will match the state's contribution with one of $152.1 million. It's important to remind the Governor we expect him to live up to the state's end of the bargain.

For too long the East-West rail corridor has been under utilized. With traffic at critical mass, allowing commuter rail to provide alternative transportation choices should be made a priority. When the 22 miles of rail corridor are converted to accommodate passenger cars, redevelopment will follow as commuters and consumers change routines. Redevelopment along the rail corridor will result in the creation of jobs, which is in keeping with smart growth efforts. Taking automobiles off the road will also help conserve fossil fuels while reducing pollution. No matter how we look at it, mass transit will improve the quality of life in San Diego's North County.

Last Friday I sat watching state access television, waiting for the governor to reveal his mid year budget cuts. The governor spoke, but I was unable to translate the political double speak he employed. Thankfully after Governor Gray was done, high ranking bureaucrats provided a bit more clarity.

Although still unclear in regards to what was to go get the budgetary axe, Jeff Morales of the California Department of Transportation assured reporters "By streamlining the process," the administration would "deliver single projects faster" while delaying the other projects until the budgetary crisis was over. Considering the Oceanside to Escondido project is already "in process," I assume this means trains will run sooner than expected.

Now would be a great time to write or call the Governor, and other state officials, and ask them to continue their support for mass transit funding. Governor Davis can be reached at 916-445-2841 or governor@governor.ca.gov.

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