The Gaviota Coast Planning Advisory Committee discussed ways to reduce the LOSSAN North Corridor Improvement Project’s environmental impact during their meeting last night.
Scheduled for completion between 2015 and 2025, the project is a proposal of 99 improvements to the North-South railway corridor stretching between Los Angeles and San Luis Obispo. Expected to cost over $100 million, the upgrades will include softening several turns, improving signal lights and moving portions of track in an effort to speed up train travel. The committee discussed the impact of the new rail project and drafted a letter to Caltrans requesting research into safety concerns, coastal access and aesthetic issues.
Caltrans will review the committee’s suggestions and decide whether to include them in the final construction plans.
According to Charles Kimbell, a member of the Gaviota Coast Planning Advisory Committee, Caltrans should review several environmental concerns before the project begins. Kimbell said the LOSSAN project could damage the county’s aesthetic look and harm the local environment by changing wildlife passages, altering pedestrian beach access, installing railway crossings and contributing to coastal erosion.
In addition to the project’s environmental impact, the committee also discussed possible safety risks.
Beverly Boise-Cossart, a member of the Gaviota Coast Planning Advisory Committee, said the proposal will need improved safety measures to address the increased rail speeds called for in the LASSON plan.
“I think we need to address safety issues around the track with the train speed increasing to 90 miles per hour,” Boise-Cossart said. “We need crossing signals at all crossings with a train coming 90 miles per hour you do not have time to see that train moving around corners.”
The council also discussed the possibility of requesting research to be done on the possibility of freighting more agricultural cargo along the railway.
Christina McGinnis, a member of the Gaviota Coast Planning Advisory Committee, said the railway will provide a greener alternative to current transportation methods.
“I would like to see the train be used to transport greater amounts of agricultural products,” McGinnis said. “With peak oil approaching, the train could be a great asset in the future.”
Despite the environmental benefits of improved mass transportation, some members of the committee argued the plan was not practical because the Gaviota Coast lacks enough agricultural produce to require large-scale freight transportation.
Gaviota Coast Planning Advisory Committee member and local rancher Jose Baer said the transportation of his cattle on the railway in the past was not a productive alternative to other means.
“We used to ship our cattle by rail but it just got to be too inconvenient,” Baer said.
The committee eventually decided to suggest that Cal Trans look into ways to increase agricultural freight.