SANTA CLARITA : Panel Says Rail Line to Cost $45 Million

Ventura County transportation officials told the county's Board of Supervisors on Tuesday that it would cost about $45 million to establish a commuter rail line between Ventura and Santa Clarita.

The money would be used to buy rights of way and to rebuild existing rail lines between Ventura and Piru, said Ginger Gherardi, executive director of the county Transportation Commission. New tracks would also have to be put down between Piru and Santa Clarita.

Although there may not be a large enough population along the Santa Clara Valley line now to justify commuter train service, the county should think of buying the rail line as a long-term investment, Gherardi said. The line itself, most of which is owned by the Southern Pacific Transportation Co., would cost about $10 million. Southern Pacific would abandon existing freight service between Ventura and Piru if the line is sold.

Santa Clarita's plans to build a convention center and the possibility of an international airport being built at Palmdale are strong incentives for the county to pursue commuter train service in the Santa Clara Valley, Gherardi said.

"It makes a whole lot of sense to save this line and protect your options," she said.

Gherardi said a consultant hired by the Transportation Commission is studying several funding options available to the county for the rail line. She said that in addition to receiving state and federal aid, some revenue could be generated if private oil or water lines were allowed to be constructed along the rail line. Operators of recreational or dinner trains could also lease rights of way from the county.

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