Train Shutdown of Downtown Demonstrates Urgency of Rail Relocation


Monday, 8:54 am, it is a normal commute into the downtown, headed westbound on Fifth Street. Up ahead I see the flashing lights and the gates down but no train yet. I head down to Third Street where I can already see the train on the tracks parallel to Second Street.

At 8:56 am, the traffic crossing the tracks at Third Street is waiting as a train slowly heads northbound on the tracks. Already five minutes into my stop, the train begins to slow until it completely stops. 9:01 am, the train comes to a dead stop. Now we wait. At this point, the train has covered the entirety of downtown, bringing all east-west traffic headed out the downtown to a screaming halt.

Five minutes go by, and cars start trying to bail out of there – where they are headed, it is hard to know. Bicyclists dangerously pick up their bicycles and head through the opening between the cars. More get off their bicycles and wait.

Ten minutes go by, no sign of movement. I begin to text city leaders, mostly for kicks.

Fifteen minutes go by and, finally, the train begins to move, slowly. It is 9:16. At 9:19, a car attempts to drive on the right to get to an alleyway. A police car flashes their lights and pulls them over.

Finally at 9:20, the train clears the Third Street crossing. Cars start to move, but it’s not quite over. The lights blink, the chimes go, the gates come down – is the train backing up? No, false alarm, a few seconds later the gates go up and traffic resumes. Downtown Davis is shut down for 25 minutes on a Monday morning.

There has been discussion already about Yolo rail relocation. Tonight at the city council meeting, Rob White, the city’s Chief Innovation Officer, will update the city council on the Yolo Rail Realignment Partnership.

In his staff report, he notes, “Davis is working in partnership with Yolo County and the cities of West Sacramento and Woodland to explore the potential for relocation of the rail lines in the downtowns of each city and realignment for a more effective regional goods movement. There are also opportunities for shared flood protection and water resource enhancements. The partnership is applying for a federal grant to study the economic benefits to the jurisdictions and the region.”

It is a long process, that over the next 12 months includes submitting a request for a U.S. EDA (Economic Development Administration) Tech Assistance Planning Grant and a two-year plan of identifying funding sources to implement that grant.

The city currently sees rail relocation as the opportunity to free up valuable land in the heart of the town for possible development. But there is something more to it than just that. Davis has a vision of becoming more than just a small college town – it wants the downtown to be a regional destination, it wants to be a center for tech-transfer, high-tech start ups, and university spinoffs – but how can Davis be taken seriously when its downtown is effectively shutdown early on a work day by trains?

At one point, the idea of relocation was a pipe dream, however, as early as January, Rob White mentioned that there has been considerable discussion countywide about the rail line relocation project and he said that it is “moving faster than anyone expected.”

There are, of course, those who oppose such a move as developer driven, but there are also those who are watching closely, given the controversy of transportation of crude oil by rail.

In December of 2012 the City of Benicia was presented with a Land Use Permit Application from the Valero Refining Company who owns and operates an oil refinery located in Benicia, California.

Valero is proposing the “Crude by Rail Project” which would allow the refinery to receive a larger proportion of its crude oil deliveries by rail car.

According to Mike Webb, Director of Community Development & Sustainability who made a staff presentation in March, the city of Benicia is currently in the review process. It is preparing an Environmental Impact Report that is expected to be released for public review and comment in the next month. Once the report is released it is assumed that there will be a 45-day comment period, and hearings at the Benicia Planning Commission and City Council are likely.

In February, Davis citizens  Lynne Nittler, Milton Kalish, and Matt Biers-Ariel wrote an article for the Vanguard where they laid out some of the concerns community members have expressed over the potential dangers that come with transporting crude oil by train car.

They stated, “In the last year there have been 10 major rail accidents involving oil trains in the U.S. and Canada.  Last July, 47 people perished in a massive fireball when a train containing Bakken crude derailed and exploded in the Canadian town of Lac-Megantic, Quebec. Four more oil trains have derailed in Canada since then. In November, a train carrying the same Bakken crude derailed in Alabama, possibly caused by trestle tracks that collapsed under the weight of the heavy tank cars. Twelve of the cars exploded, fortunately not in a populated area. In the last week of December, another 18 tank cars carrying Bakken crude derailed and exploded just outside of Casselton, North Dakota, forcing the town to evacuate to avoid the plumes of toxic smoke from the ensuing fires that burned for more than a day.  Another oil train derailed and exploded in New Brunswick days later.”

On January 27 over 50 people attended the Natural Resource Commission meeting where this topic was addressed.  During public comment on Tuesday night, NRC member Allan Pryor stated,  ”The NRC had the largest turnout in over 3-4 years over this issue, the chambers were packed. We have never had a crowd so large, and they were vocal and unanimous in their opposition.”

After over an hour of public comment during their January meeting, NRC members voted to approve a list of recommendations to council. Among the recommendations was a request that the city of Davis submit formal comments to the Draft Environmental Impact Report for the Benicia Valero Project when it is released for public comment.

In March, the Vanguard reported that Mayor Krovoza directed staff to prepare a resolution stating that the city of Davis would oppose crude oil by rail transport through our community.

Councilmember Brett Lee expressed concerns that a resolution of this sort was largely symbolic and too open ended to have the impact they were hoping for. He asked the mayor, “Do you really think the railroad is going to stop transporting oil on the railroad line because the Davis City Council says we don’t want it passing through our community?”

He continued, “I think a more effective way would be to focus on the safety aspects so that our community is protected and other communities are protected.” Councilmember Lee clarified that he was not in favor of these cars coming through our community, and went on to say that he did not believe that having a symbolic gesture “excuses us or take us off the hook for dealing with the public safety issue.”

Ultimately, Mayor Krovoza put forth a motion, that was seconded by Lee, which directed staff to begin preparation of a resolution whereby the city of Davis would oppose crude by rail transport through our community due to public safety concerns until further consideration, including understanding of risks and needed mitigation measures.

As these issues continue to evolve, the issue of rail relocation takes on much more urgency. Davis needs space to develop economically and the tracks running north-south take up prime real estate for those endeavors. But, mostly, Davis needs to be a community that no longer has to shut down when a train inexplicably decides to stop in the middle of traffic for 25 minutes on a work day.

—David M. Greenwald reporting

About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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  1. Mr. Toad

    Coincidence? A half hour shut down the day before the council hears a report on the topic.

    Valero had gross sales of $138 billion last year, about the size of the California state budget, they can afford total state of the art safety upgrades. We should demand no less.

    1. hpierce

      Probably not a coincidence, in my opinion…. Highly unlikely that the N/S line would be used for oil destined for Benicia. “conflation”?

      Even if California Northern creates a new route to the east, I contend that the current N/S right of way be preserved (nice, direct route to Woodland). Maybe 50/100 years from now, could serve as a inter-city rail route. If nothing else, it would be a great rails to trails facility.

      I think both DL&H and Hibbert still both receive shipments of building materials by this rail line.

      I’m thinking there are some machinations going on.

      The N/S route does need work on the rail-bed, particularly at/in vicinity of the crossings at Fourth and Eighth.

  2. Tia Will

    I agree with the idea of Valero being held to state of the art safety upgrades, and that we, and the other affected communities should demand no less. This however does not address the separate issue of the blockage of downtown by trains stopped across multiple downtown streets. As a relatively new resident ( 3 years) of Old East Davis, I have come to appreciate just how disruptive of people’s lives these unexpected, and fairly common stops, can be.

    1. hpierce

      Actually, I’d hold Valero accountable for THEIR rail cars, others for their rail cars (get a clue that there already potentially hazardous shipments occurring on the main E/W line, and Union Pacific for the rail infrastructure. Not just for ‘freight’ shipments, but for passenger rail.

  3. D.D.

    “Davis needs to be a community that no longer has to shut down when a train inexplicably decides to stop in the middle of traffic for 25 minutes on a work day.”

    Until something changes, use the 25 minutes to reflect on all your good fortune- a beutiiful family, a nice little town to raise your kids, clean water, friendly people, an American democracy, etc.

  4. South of Davis

    David wrote:

    > 8:54 am, it is a normal commute into the downtown, headed
    > westbound on Fifth Street. Up ahead I see the flashing lights
    > and the gates down but no train yet.

    Whenever you see traffic slowing for the train gates head UP to Covell and use the overpass…

        1. South of Davis

          Darell wrote:

          > Easier and closer to simply use the H-street tunnel.

          If you are on a bike it is even easier to grab the bike “cyclocross style” and hop between the stopped rail cars (I have never had the guts/stupidity to do this with a slow moving train like many people)…

    1. David Greenwald

      There’s no single strategy that works here. Most of the time, if I arrive via Third Street, I head north and can beat the train to 4th or 5th. However, most of the time if I end up going all the way up to 8th, by the time I get back down, the train has long since past and I lose time.

    2. hpierce

      BTW, ‘premature’ and/or ‘false’ crossing arm activations again have nothing to do with alignment of tracks, nor the freight carried on the rails. It is a maintenance issue. The operator of the rails should be responsible for that issue

    1. hpierce

      Now, there’s a thought… time spent waiting for the train to pass could be considered a ‘moment of reflection’ in solidarity for those in custody/jail/prison who shouldn’t be there. [if I knew how to use emoticons, there’d be a “smiley”] 🙂

  5. Will Portello

    There’s a lot going on in this article and thread; some of it is erroneous. The Union Pacific tracks (east-west) paralleling 2nd Street are the tracks over which oil shipment occurs. Those are U.P.’s main corridor, and will not be relocated. The California Northern Railroad interchanges cars with UPRR on those east-west tracks, east of the Amtrak station. That exchange of cars is what blocks the surface crossings. The north-south tracks belong to Cal. Northern, and run to Red Bluff. Cal Northern is virtually dedicated to lumber, food products (check out the canneries), rice, and steel (Schnitzer). It serves the industries on the west side of the valley. Those are the tracks that may some day be relocated, if funding becomes available.

    I’m not sure how, if at all, a long narrow strip of right-of-way actually could be developed from a real estate perspective. Given the growth pattern in Davis, including the Cannery Project, at some point that right-of-way may well become a dedicated transit corridor.

    I find it ironic that, a few days ago, the comments were dismissive of the potentially negative impacts on businesses and vehicle traffic potentially resulting from the Fifth Street project, in the name of safety and environmental concerns. In this case, there’s a dedicated vehicle overpass, and a dedicated bike underpass, that allow residents to avoid the grade crossings (that’s why the Covell Blvd. overpass was built). Environmentally, the existence of the rail line up the valley, results in only a small fraction of greenhouse gases that would be produced if the businesses were served by truck, and uses only a fraction of the fuel if everything had to be trucked. Transportation by rail is far safer than trucking.

    If you can’t risk getting caught at the crossing, take Covell, or Richards (then back up Pole Line). But those tracks aren’t going anywhere in the next 10 years. Just be glad you weren’t sitting there when there was no Covell crossing, and a low-priority SP beet train blocked everything from Hunts’ to 3rd Street….

    1. Topcat

      Yes, the tracks aren’t going anywhere else for many years. The best strategy for drivers is to use the Covell overpass if you see that there is a train that may block the crossings for a while.

    2. tribeUSA

      Will–good info. I’m relieved to hear the North-South line will not be used for the oil shipments.

      Do you happen to know what the speed limits are for trains that travel thru a small town like Davis? The train speeds seem appropriate to me; I haven’t noticed speeds more than ~20-25 mph on the N-S line or more than 30-40 mph on the E-W line, within Davis. For oil/hazardous chemical trains; I would think a lot of safety could be gained by lowering the speed limit thru towns. Don’t know if this would significantly impact train scheduling. There’s still always the possibility of brake failure; but at least Davis is flat (unlike the Lake Magentic episode where the brakes faiiled going down a steep gradient toward town; then going too fast to negotiate the curve in town).

  6. Frankly

    A woman was killed this morning after being struck by an Amtrak passenger train west of Davis, officials at the scene said.

    Officers with the Union Pacific Police Department and Amtrak said the adult female was walking in the middle of the westbound tracks when she was hit by the train, which was headed from Sacramento to Oakland. The incident occurred at about 7:20 a.m.

    Investigators and Solano County coroner’s officials remained on the scene several hours later. It was unclear when the tracks would reopen.

    1. Topcat

      It is hard to imagine that someone would be so stupid as to walk in the middle of the tracks. When I hear about these types of incidents I have to assume that it is either a suicide or an incredibly stupid individual who just does not realize what they are doing.

      1. Alan Miller

        You are correct, sir. If they are facing the train, it is a suicide. If they are walking away from the train, they are wearing headphones on high volume.

  7. Rich RifkinWDE 73

    “Train Shutdown of Downtown Demonstrates Urgency of Rail Relocation”

    I think it would be a great benefit to Davis if the north-south rail line were relocated. However, I don’t agree that this situation is “urgent.” We’ve lived with it since 1869 (a year after the west-east line reached Davis from Vallejo).

    And, David, if you don’t mind answering a personal question: Why do you drive downtown in a car? From where you live in S. Davis, there are two very convenient bicycling routes to your office.

    One is a nice easy ride almost all on bicycle paths. From Mace, turn west onto San Marino Drive for a few blocks, where San Marino becomes a greenbelt bike path(A) along Putah Creek. At Drummond, turn south past Montgomery and then rejoin the bike path(B) going west. You will run into Da Vinci Court and Research Park Drive, which lead you to West Chiles Road to the underpass which enters Davis behind Davis Commons (Whole Foods).

    The second good route, shorter and more direct, is to ride up the Mace overpass and go west onto the bike path(C) which parallels the north side of I-80. Take that to Olive Drive. Take Olive to Richards and the underpass into downtown.
    These bike paths from South Davis into downtown have new commemorative names, honoring people who played a role in Davis bike history, though no signs have yet been erected showing them:
    (A) The Dale and Donna Lott Bike Path
    (B) The Maynard Skinner Bike Path
    (C) The Frank and Evelyn Child Bike Path

      1. Rich RifkinWDE 73

        Having run into you not too long ago at Cloud Forest Cafe, I know that you also sometimes have daycare responsibilities, and so that can be an issue for you (or for anyone else with a child who needs to be transported). But, given the great selection of bike trailers which are now available, you can tote a kid or most merchandise very nicely on your bike.

        I suggest you talk to Robb Davis about this. Robb’s family lives entirely car free. It’s probably something you could do, too, at least when you are not going out of town.

      2. Frankly

        This is humorous. David, a liberal who obviously accepts the global warming crisis as a call to environmental action, being schooled for using a car.

        It is that clash of having to deal with the stresses and time requirements for a normal productive work and family life and also being politically and environmentally-correct.

        Show of hands for how many of you Davisites that don’t use a car… how many of you are retired, unemployed, partially employed, not dealing with any childcare, etc.?

        My guess is that your numbers over-represent the people without a demanding outside job (e.g., with work locations other than your house, and with deadlines and meetings and performance expectations that determine whether you continue to have a job).

        I worked in Sacramento for 20 years before I started my consulting company when I worked mostly out of my Davis house and could set my hours and the deadlines for the work I undertook for my clients. During that 6 years being my own boss, I was more fit than ever… riding my bike every chance I got. However, my kids still needed transportation at times.

        Now I work at an office in downtown Davis, I ride my bike from West Davis occasionally, but I have frequent meetings in Sacramento and the Bay Area. I also have to routinely wear dress slacks, dress shirt and dress shoes… and frankly there is no easy way to transport a dressy business attire in a bike pack without it being wrinkled and smudged to smithereens.

        My point here is that there is a bit of lifestyle elitism being projected by those that avoid the car. Some of us don’t have a choice.

        1. Alan Miller

          Frankly, speaking as a huge bicycle advocate, I fully agree with your point. Those that do not deal with the lifestyles you mention often have no idea the challenges. Being pro-bicycle should not exclude the realities of the need for a car for many.

        2. South of Davis

          I don’t want to give David or Frankly a hard time for not riding their bikes but just want to remind them if they take it easy and cruise along you won’t get sweaty and mess your clothes up (I wave to Dan Wolk many days when I see him in a suit on his bike heading to the train station).

          A HUGE bonus since it only takes about 5-10 minutes longer to ride from the SE corner of Davis where David lives and the NW corner of Davis where Frankly lives to Downtown on a bike than driving in a car you can get 40-50 minutes of exercise in every day but only lose 10-20 minutes of work and/or family time.

          1. Frankly

            The exercise is certainly one of the benefits. My 54 year old ass needs all the help it can looking good in a pair of jeans… especially now that my knee no longer supports running for exercise.

            And to add it also helps get my brain working when I arrive at work… instead of having to wait for the caffeine to kick in and the sleepy cobwebs to leave.

            But riding slow to protect my clothing and prevent sweat means that the exercise component is somewhat lost.

            But the brain help, the reduced wear on the car, and the environmental benefits are all worthwhile motivations.

            I just ordered some new dress slacks and dress shirts that are more bike-ride friendly. Now if I can only manage my schedule so I have more days without meetings I need to drive to.

          2. Rich RifkinWDE 73

            Frankly, frankly, a better option in my opinion is to ride in good cycling clothes–especially bright colors if you would be riding early in the morning or late in the afternoon–and just keep a change of work clothes at work, or bring a change of clothes in a tote. …. While I am at it, two important safety items to have on your commuter bike are a good strong headlight and a very bright red flashing rear light. And, of course, wear a helmet.

    1. D.D.

      “One is a nice easy ride almost all on bicycle paths. From Mace, turn west onto San Marino Drive for a few blocks, where San Marino becomes a greenbelt bike path(A) along Putah Creek. At Drummond, turn south past Montgomery and then rejoin the bike path(B) going west. You will run into Da Vinci Court and Research Park Drive, which lead you to West Chiles Road to the underpass which enters Davis behind Davis Commons (Whole Foods).”
      I used to love that walking route & occasional bike route when I lived near Albany and Drummond. It was very peaceful. Sometimes, it was the only time I could get my jr. high aged kids to talk to me!

  8. D.D.

    Another solution- turn off your car, jump out, go into the YCSPCA Thrift Shop, buy a little gift for your wife, say Hi to their super nice staff, then run over & jump back in your car. You could save an animal’s life, and make your wife feel appreciated, too.

    1. Barack Palin

      Or David could just sit in his car and write an article about the train delay.

      I happen to like the train going through the city, it gives our town a kind of uniqueness. Yes, some safety measures need to be put in place as far as the oil cars go, but personally I’d hate to see the train go elsewhere. As far as the city having to “shut down” because of a 25 minute delay, that’s a huge over sensationalization.

        1. Alan Miller

          Nevermind that is a perfect transportation corridor for bicycles, should this demon child ever take place. Linear corridors are a rare and needed commodity. Taken out even one sub-parcel for development ends use of the entire corridor for transportation. Challenging, though not as challenging or expensive as a rail relocation, rails and trails can safely co-exist.

          1. Frankly

            Well given that we don’t want peripheral retail, and our sales tax revenue is orders of magnitude lower than comparable cities, I think we might have to value the use for development more than for transportation. After all, if there is nothing new downtown worth visiting, why care about new transportation to and from?

            Linear corridors also work great as shopping pedestrian promenades. Maybe we can do an elevated bike and pedestrian path.

          2. Alan Miller

            >Linear corridors also work great as shopping pedestrian promenades.

            100′ wide?

            >Maybe we can do an elevated bike and pedestrian path.
            Yeah, that’s cheap. Maybe the feds will pay for it.

          3. Frankly

            Need to redevelop the adjacent parcels to take advantage of the new land.

            I agree that it would not be cheap. Talk to Gubnor Brown about the destruction of RDA.

          4. Alan Miller

            Yes, because state taxpayers should pay for our City redevelopment. Very conservative of you.

          5. Frankly

            That is the propaganda of the greedy public sector employees unions talking. RDA creates tax revenue out of land currently not producing enough tax revenue and gives part of it to gubment to give to the unions and uses the rest to fund the bonds used for the redevelopment… and the greedy public employee unions and their Democrat politician beneficiaries decide they want ALL the tax revenue. Why are we surprised at that… Democrats in this state have perfected the art of taking looting from the people and programs that actually produce something.

          6. hpierce

            I look at the LONG term. 50-100 years out, we might be ‘cursed’ by not preserving the R/W for possible inter-city rail transit. Frankly may be willing to sell his ‘birthright’ for some soup, but I am not.

          7. Frankly

            Interesting comment. My thought is that you would be willing to sell off the future prospects of city fiscal sustainability only to preserve this space for something we probably don’t need and will never need because you and others either have forgotten or don’t know that tax revenue derives from economic activity not bike lanes.

            So, are you for peripheral retail development?

            Or are you just one of those head in the sand NIMBY people that deny that Davis needs any additional business and retail?

            What are your ideas for closing the budget deficits and taking care of all our city deferred maintenance and special programs.

            Maybe you want to charge toll on that new RR bike path?

          8. hpierce

            Or, Frankly, I have a vision of economic development that exceeds a few years…

            Will NEVER need? Do you believe the second coming/parousia is a few years away? OK.

            Am I FOR peripheral development? NO! Do I think it is likely in the next 50-100 years? YES.

            Do I actually care for myself? NO… probably will be feeding worms in 100 years.

            Frankly, you don’t know who the hell you’re speaking to. I’ve contested with NIMBY’s and BANANA’s for 30+ years.

            Are you saying the development of a 100 +/- R/W will solve our fiscal problems? After removing the infrastructure, removing any accumulated toxics from the R/W, we are going to make significant in-roads on the budget?

            If so, I say you don’t know “diddley”.

          9. Frankly

            Let me guess hpierce and Alan Miller… you both live in the core area and would prefer we don’t expand any business or retail and we just provide you more open space.

            That is nice for you. What about the rest of the people that live here?

          10. hpierce

            Again, Frankly, either showing venom or lack of “awareness”… your guess as to me suggests a R/C inversion. I suspect that in my career I’ve shown a lot more service to this community, in many ways, paid and volunteer, than you ever have or ever will. I’ve always advocated for the community even if it was somewhat counter to my personal interests. Have you? Do you have an option on the RR R/W?

            For the record, have never lived in the Core or “old east” neighborhoods, but have cared about the Davis community since I arrived here a scant 41 years ago.

            But obviously, Frankly, you are much wiser, and care more about this community than I, so I will go silent in deference to your superior wisdom and commitment. But I stand by my concept, that once R/W is relinquished, it will cost 100-500% more to re-acquire or acquire new on a similar alignment. But that would help the private land owners, so that makes sense, right Frankly?

          11. Frankly

            hpierce – you arrived here a couple years before me, so I must defer to your seniority. But franky (because I am) it only serves to increase my obvious irritation with your lack of apparently acknowledgement and response for the lack of city revenue and the tremendous opportunity that a rerouted railroad would provide.

            I had not even considered that there were going to be folks like you opining for another bike path.

            You have also failed to answer my questions about your support of additional business and retail development.

            And related to this, what solutions to our budget problems do you support?

  9. Rich RifkinWDE 73

    FWIW, I biked to Sacramento and back this morning along the Causeway (leading a couple of friends who normally drive cars, but were cycling in response to the Fix50 project). To my surprise, at 8 AM, there was no traffic jam at all from Davis to Sacramento on I-80. It seemed like the eastbound traffic on the Causeway was moving 70 MPH or faster. Due to the west wind, we had no trouble riding 20-24 MPH on our bikes. …. On my way home, I stopped at the Starbucks near Enterprise Blvd. in West Sacramento (which is right next to the Causeway). Parked on that little street were a bunch of tow trucks, who (I guess) were there in order to move a broken down car off the freeway as fast as possible. Seems like a smart idea to have them on the ready.

  10. Alan Miller

    There is so much wrong with this article and the comments that I cannot begin to address it all. David, before you post an article on rail issues, I highly recommend you run it by me. You don’t have to agree with my opinion and I’m not asking you to change yours. You are welcome to call anytime, including a 4:00am pre-release edit if you inform me the night before. Cathy has my contact info.

    The issue of rail relocation involves so many agencies, rail companies, land owners and governments that coming to agreement on a plan is an almost insurmountable challenge. The cost is so monumental, easily in the nine-figure range, that funding will be near impossible without federal assistance on a massive scale. The cost and routing assumptions in the initial consultant report are laughable. Unless a highly-influential politician pulls a political horse-trade on a scale almost unprecedented, this so-called rail relocation will not happen.

    The rail issue that involves the flood control improvement in the Yolo Bypass can be solved without the rail relocation, for a few millions of dollars. To use the federal flood money on rail relocation, a completely unrelated element over an order of magnitude more expensive, is fraud upon US taxpayers on a scale so blatant that it will not hold. The consultant report not mentioning this cheap and simple fix for flood control shows the consultant report was not intended to show a fix for flood issues, but rather was trying to extort federal flood dollars for the purpose of rail relocation by attempting to tie the issues together with words where no corresponding reality exists.

    Fresno, for example, has been trying to relocate their BNSF tracks through downtown for the past 75 years. The expense and complexity of the move has prevented it. Why should Yolo County be able to scam federal dollars in the nine-figure range for such a project when numerous communities with much, much, much larger rail-traffic conflicts cannot?

    The developers see this as a development opportunity, the bicycling community as a new bicycle path. The right-of-way is too narrow for both, yet the consultant report holds out both as possible so the advocates of the conflicting uses both foam at the mouth at the possibilities. The fact is, whichever group wins use of the land won’t be able to foam at the mouth if this project ever actually comes to fruition, because they will be long dead. If Fresno can’t get their tracks relocated — with dozens of trains a day — after nearly a century of trying, council after council, what would bring Yolo County to the front of the line for massive subsidy — with only 4-6 trains/day on this line?

    Bringing the oil issue into this article is nonsensical. The oil will run on the E-W line through downtown which is not part of the so-called rail relocation. The attempt to link the two to promote rail relocation is attempt to use words to make a connection where there is no corresponding reality.

    The issue of trains stopping in town has to do with how California Northern (CNRR) operates their trains. The City of Davis should enter into discussions with CNRR as a very real safety issue exists. Whenever their trains stop, as David observed, pedestrians and bicyclists make insanely dangerous moves between and under the stopped trains. This happens daily around 6pm when the trains stop to remove a safety device from the tracks before proceeding on the interchange track. This is a relatively new method of operation that could be done differently, though at some expense to the railroad.

    Nonetheless, I hope the railroad will act in good faith and change their procedures. While it is true pedestrians and bicycles should not climb through and over a stopped train, it happens every day and the potential for a death is very real. City, please contact me for talking points if you wish to enter such negotiations. This will improve circulation by cutting down the time crossings are occupied by a train. What actually happened Monday I cannot say, it may have been a mechanical issue that happens rarely. However, IF, and I say IF, CNRR is switching the head-end of their train while leaving the train parked across four road crossings, then the City needs to complain to the California PUC and ask that CNRR change their procedures. They are not supposed to block crossings that long unless it is an issue out of their control.

    The issue of the pedestrian being hit today is on the E-W line south of the City limits. There is no connection to rail relocation.

    I am continually appalled by both City officials/employees as well as persons who consider themselves “conservative” to view an infusion of state and most especially federal dollars, obtained via the corrupted influence of powerful connected forces, be they political and/or private, as “economic development”. The only true economic development is wealth created by business, such as the businesses along 2nd Street, and a future business park. Infusion of state and federal dollars is just stealing from other taxpayers. Yes it’s done all the time and if we get “ours”, the City “wins”, but at what cost? The so-called rail-relocation needs to be held up to the light of reality because the cost of this project based on a fraudulent lie is so incredibly massive.

    “but how can Davis be taken seriously when its downtown is effectively shutdown early on a work day by trains?” So nonsensical an implied link between issues, not even worth commenting on.

    “There are, of course, those who oppose such a move as developer driven, but there are also those who are watching closely, given the controversy of transportation of crude oil by rail.” So nonsensical an implied link between issues, not even worth commenting on.

    I wish to awaken the people of Yolo County to the reality of the so-called rail relocation because you are all being played, even most of the players are being played and don’t know it. Anyone who sees the so-called rail relocation as a “solution” to a problem such as a train blocking traffic for 25-minutes is going to have a long, long, long, long wait . . . oops, sorry, your died . . . waiting.

    In the meantime, real solutions, like pursuing funding for real transportation improvement like a rail AND trail bike path to Woodland are put on a back burner because the bicycle community is hoodwinked into believing in this lie. Consideration of a pedestrian bridge west to F Street from the Cannery’s north side is deemed unnecessary because “the tracks are going to be removed”. A so-called rail relocation as the solution to the blocking of rail crossings today, the seeming subject of this article?

    Not bloody likely anytime soon.

    1. Matt Williams

      Alan, you are only choosing to engage part of the story. For instance, when you say, “The rail issue that involves the flood control improvement in the Yolo Bypass can be solved without the rail relocation, for a few millions of dollars” what is you source of that “few millions of dollars” figure?

      I have offered to you many times the opportunity to sit down and hear out your concerns, and to learn from you. Each time I have offered you have brushed the offer aside. Perhaps that would be a more productive use of your time and the community’s time, rather than a “4:00am pre-release edit” telephone call with David.

      1. Alan Miller

        A few million dollars is the cost of a few thousand feet of track and land at most, all that is needed, not 15-20 miles. You criticize my numbers that I have been given no money for, yet not the fraudulent consultant report that the consultant was paid for.

        1. Matt Williams

          What land are you referring to? And what “fraudulent” consultant report? Does that report deal with the impact of the project on freeboard on the east side levee of the Sacramento River at Natomas?

  11. Alan Miller

    David, I do not see the update on so-called rail relocation that you mention in your article as being on tonight’s agenda. I also am unable to pull up the staff report you mention. Is this a “shadow item”?

  12. tj

    Alan’s info on lengthy blocking of city streets is very helpful.
    A couple of months ago, 8th street was blocked for at least 20 minutes.
    I contacted the Davis PD about the problem of blocking emergency vehicles, but they knew nothing, weren’t interested.
    Chico reportedly has an arrangement with the railroad, that streets are not blocked for more than 5 minutes.

    1. Alan Miller

      Those two paragraphs on train delays really should have been the focus of the this article. The writer wants a $100 million-range, decades-in-the-future, flashy, cure-all solution to a problem that is going on now and needs a cheap, immediate solution. You cannot solve an immediate problem with a long-term, maybe-never, not-funded-by-a-long-shot solution.

      The amount of time blocked is not the safety issue. The safety issue is the stopping of trains in our four crossings. About a minute or two passes and bikes and pedestrians start crossing over the train. I’ve seen this happen for 35 years — it has probably happened in Davis for well over a century. California Northern having a daily practice of stopping in the crossings for a couple of minutes each day is inviting a fatality.

      There are safe (though not legal) ways to cross a stopped train; I have almost never seen a lay person at 3rd, 4th, 5th or 8th practice a safe method, most especially when toting a bicycle.

      The worst story I ever heard was of a woman who placed her baby on the coupler while she crawled under and picked up her baby on the other side. A railroad employee told me that one.

  13. DavisBurns

    I suspect the delay this morning was due to a woman being hit and killed by the Amtrac train this morning at 7:20.

    Off topic–I try to use this site with an iPad. The delays in typing and the appearance letters of the screen or using the backspace key to correct mistakes and delays in refreshing the screen when scrolling through the comments or the body of the article itself makes using the site aggravating and time consuming. Anyone else having these problems?

    1. Alan Miller

      Not related. The trains off the California Northern can proceed to the interchange track without interference from the E-W trains, and in fact did so this morning.

    1. Alan Miller

      It’s a speghetti-dropped-in-a-bow-shaped route that starts north of Woodland, proceeds southeast to north of I-5, makes a sharp U-turn under I-5 and proceeds back west a couple a miles parallel to the route on the north side of I-5, then cuts south near and parallel to Road 103, turns east along the south side of the landfill, then turns south and ties in with the UPRR near Swingle, the point where the frontage road east of Davis jumps from the north to the south side of the railroad tracks west of the Causeway. There are also looking at a route east of that along a levee along to the west edge of the Causeway. The new routes add a couple of miles and several right-angel and one U-turn to the route, once a direct route for freight and passenger traffic going from the Bay Area to Oregon, and possibly will be again in the future. Adding miles and curves adds to fuel use and therefore added air contaminants, and the curves wear on wheels and the rails and add to travel time and therefore operating cost; it will be interesting to see how they justify that in the EIR, should the project ever get that far. For all the talk of removing grade crossings, it will add about half as many new ones on county roads, and my suspicion is the CTC will not allow all to be at grade, especially Road 102 where it will cross on a stretch of busy road subject to fog. Should any grade seps be required, the costs will skyrocket even higher.

      1. Topcat

        The cost of such a project makes it completely unrealistic. It’s not going to happen in our lifetimes.

        Alan Miller has some good insights into how to work on improving the situation. Listen to him.

      2. Matt Williams

        Alan, where are you getting your information? The proposed route will never cross Road 102 at any point. You refer to a “fraudulent” consultant report. It looks like what you have really seen is a “phantom” consultant report … or maybe a 20th Century consultant report.

    1. Matt Williams

      Not in any plan that I have seen. In fact it never gets even close to Road 102, staying west of 102 from the point where it leaves the East-West Union Pacific main line near Swingle to the point where it rejoins existing track in Woodland just to the north of I-5. What are your sources for the proposed route?

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