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10 Guidebook for Implementing Passenger Rail Service on Shared Passenger and Freight Corridors 2.1.2 Passenger Rail Development Timeline Agencies embarking on development of a passenger rail service often want an estimate of the timeline for working through all the steps of planning and implementing a new passenger rail service. Unfortunately there is no single answer to this question. Almost every recent development has followed a different path, depending on the extent of prior studies and planning, how the proj- ect is funded, the complexity of negotiations with the host railroads, the extent of physical improvement needed, whether the agency has to purchase rolling stock, etc. The following list provides a few examples of recent developments with some comments on specific factors that affected timelines: · Los Angeles Metrolink Commuter Service on the Antelope Valley Line. The record for the rapid implementation of rail service came immediately after the Northridge earthquake in southern California on January 1, 1994. Over a period of 6 days commuter service was extended from Santa Clarita to Lancaster, California, with a new intermediate station at Palmdale, a dis- tance of about 50 miles. In the following few months, 10 miles of second track were added and other improvements completed to reduce trip time from an initial 2 hours 25 minutes to 1 hour 35 minutes for the 78-mile trip to downtown Los Angeles. This emergency service was discon- tinued when highway repairs were completed, but later reinstated permanently. Obviously, numerous shortcuts were taken to achieve the rapid implementation, but it is an interesting example of what is physically possible. · The New Mexico RailRunner Commuter Service through Albuquerque to Santa Fe. This proj- ect was initiated in August 2003 after planning studies had concluded that commuter rail was a desirable approach to alleviating some of the present and expected highway congestion in the service region. The following month, the state legislature approved a transportation funding package that included the proposed commuter service. The service was to be initiated in two phases: Phase I, a route through Albuquerque from Belen in the south to Bernalillo in the north, and Phase II, an extension from Bernalillo to Santa Fe to the north. State and local agencies immediately started working on all aspects of implementing Phase I in parallel: negotiations with the host railroad (BNSF), locating and building stations, acquisition of passenger cars and loco- motives, etc. BNSF agreed to sell the line, which was already in good condition for passenger service, to the state. Cars and locomotives were obtained quickly through add-ons to existing orders by other agencies, and local communities were very supportive of the rail developments. The first phase opened for service in July 2006, under 3 years from initiation. The extension to Santa Fe, which required construction of a new alignment for part of the route and a detailed alternatives study, opened in December 2008. This project does not appear to have encountered any significant barriers, and probably was accomplished in near minimum time. The host rail- road was cooperative; the rail line was in good condition; there was strong community support; and only state and local funding was used. · The Downeaster Corridor from Boston, Massachusetts, to Portland, Maine. A full descrip- tion and timeline for this project is provided in Appendix D. In contrast to the New Mexico RailRunner, this project is an illustration of a lengthy implementation process. It took 13 years from an initial concept proposal to initiation of service and another 3 years to resolve linger- ing issues with the host railroad. The Downeaster is unusual because there was no signifi- cant interest in passenger rail on the route before advocates took up the cause in 1989. Most other intercity rail corridors have a history of proposals and studies prior to the successful implementation effort and often have limited existing Amtrak service. The 13-year timeline includes 2 years that were needed for passenger rail advocates to gain a commitment from the Maine state legislature. Almost all other passenger rail developments start with required polit- ical commitments in place. Another major factor in the lengthy implementation effort was opposition from the host railroad, which resulted in 2 to 3 years of negotiations and a rela- tively slow construction process.