Second Auburn rail round-trip loses steam

Union Pacific decision not to double-track rail at Donner Summit seen as a key
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Auburn’s chances of having another round-trip between the city and Sacramento added to the Capitol Corridor rail system have suffered a major blow.

The Placer County Transportation Planning Agency had been working with Union Pacific on a plan that could have allowed a second round-trip as early as October. But Celia McAdam, the agency’s executive director, said the rail corporation has decided not to move forward with a project to add more track over the Donner Summit that was a linch-pin to the Auburn-Sacramento proposal.

McAdam said Friday that Union Pacific’s intentions to pull out became known in March, a day before the Donner Summit project could have been placed in the pipeline approved for match federal funding. Union Pacific has long been interested in double-tracking about 10 miles of its rail line in the Donner Summit area to improve freight-transportation efficiency, she said. The Placer agency had agreed to support the effort, on the condition that Union Pacific would allow a second Capitol Corridor round-trip to Auburn.

Union Pacific participation would have meant an infusion of funding, with a 50 percent match from the rail company. The company was set to pay $25 million, while Trade Corridor Improvement Act funding would have paid the other $25 million.

“It’s terribly disappointing,” McAdam said. “We’ve been working on this one way or another since 2006. We were hoping to have a second round trip by October.”

Union Pacific continues to work with the planning agency and the city of Roseville on a potential project that would allow more Capitol Corridor trips between Roseville and Sacramento. That would involve building a third track between the two cities.

Aaron Hunt, Union Pacific director of corporate relations and media in Roseville, issued a statement Friday on Union Pacific’s decision on the Donner Summit project.

“In 2010, Union Pacific worked with Placer County Transportation Planning Agency and Capitol Corridor to define the investments needed in Union Pacific infrastructure to grant one additional round trip train from Sacramento to Auburn,” Hunt stated. “The plan was agreed to by all parties and became the basis for an application for federal funding for the project. Though no federal funds were awarded, the plan to provide one additional train to Auburn is still acceptable if the public agencies can fund the improvements agreed to by all parties.”

Placer County Supervisor Jim Holmes, a member of the Capitol Corridor Joint Powers Authority board, said he too viewed the move as a disappointment after the work that has been done over the past seven years. While buses will continue to provide a link between Sacramento and Auburn, more passenger rail service is still a longtime goal, he said.

“Ridership down to Sacramento and beyond is significant,” Holmes said.

The current Capitol Corridor train schedule includes one round trip daily to and from Auburn. The westbound trip leaves at 6:35 a.m. and the eastbound return trip arrives at 6:35 p.m.