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Light rail selected for Monterey Peninsula

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Monterey County, Calif., residents are one step closer to riding light rail between Monterey and Marina after the Transportation Agency selected light rail as the locally preferred alternative for the Monterey Branch Line transit corridor.  The 16-mile corridor extends between Monterey and Castroville on the publicly-owned tracks adjacent to Highway 1.

For
the past few years, Transportation Board members have been discussing and reviewing
the benefits to bus rapid transit or light rail transit for the planned
corridor. Each alternative has its advantages; however light rail was selected
based on its ability to provide superior transportation in the long-term while
best meeting the vision and future plans for each of the peninsula cities.
Light rail vehicles hold more riders than bus rapid transit vehicles and,
unlike bus rapid transit, have the ability to add train cars at a nominal operating
cost, which will be beneficial when ridership increases in the future. This capability
to respond to long-term growth is an essential feature of this mode choice.

With
tracks in the corridor, intercity rail can one day run from San Francisco to Monterey,
providing a fast and efficient way of getting to and from San Francisco.

The
first phase of the project will run between Monterey and north Marina with key stations
in Monterey, Seaside, Sand City, Marina/CSUMB, and connecting bus service to Pacific
Grove and Carmel to the south and Salinas to the east. Later phases will extend
service to the planned commuter rail station in Castroville and increase the
frequency of trains. The total capital cost for Phase 1 of the project is
$128.5 million.

One
of the next steps for the project will be to design computer simulations of
what the light rail vehicles will look running on the corridor through the
cities of Monterey and Marina. These visualizations were requested by the
cities to help illustrate how light-rail will fit in with their
communities.  The Transportation
Agency will also hold meetings with each of the cities to determine the best
design and location for the transit stations, in particular where the terminus
of the line will occur in the City of Monterey.  Then, TAMC will complete the federal and state environmental
review documents in preparation for requesting a major contribution of federal
transit funds for construction. Start
of service is planned for early 2015.

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