Critics say the corridor between San Diego and Santa Barbara was denied an unprecedented opportunity to fund a variety of long-awaited projects in order to favor what they view as a flawed high-speed rail proposal that is surrounded by uncertainty, duplicates some existing service and is decades from completion.
They say the bullet-train project is years from breaking ground and that important conventional rail improvements would be delayed because they wouldn't get enough funding from other federal or state sources.
The governor "took shovel-ready projects and put them aside, " said Rich Tolmach, president of the California Rail Foundation. "Hundreds of millions of dollars were thrown away. Now these rail projects will not get their fair share of federal stimulus money."
Tolmach and other critics said the Caltrans rail division and other transportation agencies would try to seek alternate funding, but those sources are not as large as the federal funds allocated for high-speed rail, and the state has little money because of an unprecedented and ongoing budget shortfall.
"We may never get this money now," said Jim Mills, a former state senator who helped to create commuter rail service between San Diego and Los Angeles. "The lives of rail travelers will be jeopardized by this. One of the major items requested was positive train control, which can prevent the kind of accidents that have occurred on Metrolink."
However, Richard Katz, a former assemblyman who sits on the Metrolink, high-speed rail and Metropolitan Transportation Authority boards, was more optimistic that conventional rail projects, such as positive train control, would not be jeopardized by the governor's concentration on high-speed rail.
For example, Katz said, Metrolink, which serves six counties, needs roughly $200 million to $210 million to install positive train control by 2012.
About $70 million has been requested from other federal sources, and efforts are underway to try to redirect $97 million from state transportation bonds that are earmarked to rebuild the Colton railroad crossing.
If positive train control cannot get enough federal or state funding, Katz said he believes the MTA would lend Metrolink the money.
"We are still in good shape overall," Katz said. "We're applying for everything we can get our hands on. I think we will do well in all our funding requests."
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Some of the 29 proposed Southern California improvements that were cut from the high-speed rail stimulus application:
* Automated braking systems for Metrolink and Amtrak from Moorpark to San Diego
* Signal and communication upgrades at Los Angeles' Union Station
* Safety improvements at the Chatsworth, Bob Hope Airport and Glendale stations
* Highway rail-grade safety improvements in Los Angeles and Ventura counties
* Pedestrian grade separations for the Coaster and Amtrak in Encinitas
* Speed enhancements in Irvine and from Santa Ana to San Juan Capistrano
* Final phase of triple track between Los Angeles and Fullerton
Source: Southern California Regional Rail Authority