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Electioneering blamed for sending second Auburn Capitol Corridor train off track

By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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Jim Holmes is stepping down as chairman of the Capitol Corridor Joint Powers Authority board happy with on-time performance of trains but still seeking a second round trip for the rail route to Auburn. October’s on-time performance was 96 percent, a figure that continues to lead all of the nation’s commuter rail services. Holmes, Placer County supervisor for the Auburn area and the local board’s appointee on the joint powers authority, leaves the chairmanship Wednesday after two years. “I’m very pleased with on-time performance,” Holmes said “But I still want to have another train here because the demand is here.” The authority, which oversees a passenger rail link from Auburn to San Jose, was rebuffed this past month in an attempt to secure Federal Railroad Administration High Speed Intercity Passenger Rail grant funding* totaling $57 million for a series of improvements along the Capitol Corridor that would have allowed the second Auburn round trip. Plans were to construct track improvements between Roseville and Donner Pass, with Union Pacific Railroad contributing $10.3 million in matching funds. Improvements in the Fremont-Newark-Centerville area were also being proposed as part of the funding request. Holmes said the authority, which represents eight counties from Placer to Santa Clara, had been expecting to secure a share of $2.4 billion available this year but instead watched Central California projects supporting high-speed rail win out. Capitol Corridor’s Washington, D.C. legislative adviser indicated that political pressure from Central California congressmen in re-election campaigns resulted in the funding going elsewhere, Holmes said. Holmes said that when he visited Washington earlier this year, he was under the impression from federal officials that the authority’s funding was going to be approved. Auburn already has one morning and evening departure but would have gained a second weekday train arrival at 7:18 p.m. with the extension of a San Jose-to-Sacramento run into Placer County. The second morning train would have left Auburn for San Jose at 5:55 a.m. The single Auburn-Sacramento route departs from Conheim Auburn Station at 6:35 a.m. weekdays and arrives back in Auburn at 6:30 p.m. Staff with the authority have calculated that the new second train and other route changes – including eliminating an early-morning run from Oakland to Sacramento – would increase ridership 3 percent and costs would drop by 2 percent. October statistics showed ridership was up to 141,350 along the Capitol Corridor. That’s 3.1 percent higher than October 2009. Revenue was up 7.2 percent. David Kutrosky, authority managing director, said Union Pacific’s superior dispatching and a decrease in bridge-related delays helped Capitol Corridor lead the nation in on-time percentage. The new chairman, to be selected from other directors on the Capitol Corridor board, will be elected at Wednesday’s meeting for a two-year term. *Reflects corrected copy from original posting, which incorrectly stated funding was from the Homeland Security Act.