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August 18, 2022

Commuter rail service from Hollister?

The Council of San Benito County Governments is considering a
proposal that would extend Caltrain commuter rail service from
Gilroy to Hollister.
The Council of San Benito County Governments is considering a proposal that would extend Caltrain commuter rail service from Gilroy to Hollister.

To help fund the possible extension, COG staff is holding discussions with Federal Transit Administration representatives about receiving nearly $1 million in start-up funding.

The funds, if approved, would be used to pay for the costs of preliminary engineering, environmental studies and other project reports or studies needed to pull the proposal forward.

The FTA advised COG to work with Santa Clara’s Valley Transportation Authority, the agency which oversees Caltrain, to help plan the proposed extension to Hollister.

“They suggested we join with the VTA as part of a Joint Powers Board,” said Lisa Berg, a transportation planner with COG.

Officials said VTA has the expertise required to help local officials with the proposal for the rail extension.

“We’re such a small agency that we don’t have the staff to put together the application (for funding),” Berg said.

If the extended rail line becomes a reality, officials said they would need the VTA’s help, at least at first, in operating the rail line.

Some of the reports the grant would fund include a list of alternatives on the number and size of station stops and the types of bridge crossings.

There is also a proposal to refurbish the old train depot at the eastern end of Fifth Street and return it to its original state as a passenger loading and unloading point.

The proposed Hollister extension comes at the same time that Caltrain is also considering extending rail service to Salinas, so it made sense to officials to consider including Hollister.

COG officials authorized staff to start working on the proposed commuter rail in February 2002, when board directors asked staff to look into a phased-in approach of creating the rail line. The acceptance of the startup grant, which still has to be approved by the COG board, would be the second phase in creating the rail line.

Although there is currently no projected funding available to buy rail cars or equipment for the commuter line, officials said getting the plans in order now would help move the proposal to the top of the funding list when money becomes available again.

Tres Pinos resident Joe Thompson and transportation attorney objected to the $1 million design study, stating its Technical Advisory Committee should seek Railroad Rehabilitation Intermodal funds available for capital investments.

However, under that plan, the commuter rail line would have to work in conjunction with shipping freight to help reduce the cost of operating the rail line.

COG is scheduled to take up the issue of accepting the grant at its meeting on April 24.

Staff Report
A staff member edited this provided article.

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