Monterey County Rail Extension project underway

By: Mariana Hicks 

SALINAS, Calif. – The long-awaited Monterey County Rail Extension Project between Santa Clara County and Salinas is finally underway.

Thursday, the Transportation Agency for Monterey County announced its “kick start” event for the project in Salinas.

There’s a lot of work to be done ahead of the projected 2020 start date.

“First of all we’ll be demolishing all of the buildings that are in the parking lot part of the station,” said Debbie Hale, executive director for TAMC. “Then we’ll be extending Lincoln Avenue so there will be a direct way to get from city hall to the train station.”

Then layover facilities will be built where trains can be housed overnight.

Once the project is completed, there will be two morning and two evening trains between Salinas and Gilroy, perfect for folks making the commute. There are also passenger lines from Gilroy to San Jose.

“People can work in the Bay Area and other places and hop on a train and come home to Salinas,” said Paul Farmer, CEO of the Salinas Valley Chamber of Commerce.

While it’s aimed at commuters right now, it can also open up the Central Coast to those in the Bay Area.

TAMC says the rails are more beneficial than the roads.

“It will help reduce air pollution and that’s really important and it’s a much less expensive way for us to provide more capacity for people to make that trip without having to widen the highway, which is very expensive,” Hale said.

The $81 million project is being paid for with state funds, including the so-called gas tax.

There are also plans to build additional stations in Pajaro for those in Santa Cruz County or North Monterey County who don’t want to drive to Salinas. There’s also plans for one in Castroville, where folks can connect to the Monterey Peninsula.