New Line, New Locomotives
First Major Extension in 22 Years Highlights Metrolink’s Summer of Celebrations
By Stephanie Jordan
The first major extension of a Metrolink line in 22 years opened for business this summer, as the 91/Perris Valley Line (91/PVL) extended Metrolink service by 24-miles. The extension plans, which were first approved in 2003, finally came to fruition when operations began on June 6.
"Metrolink and Riverside County Transportation Commission staff has worked incredibly hard to make this concept a reality," acknowledged Metrolink Board Vice-Chair Daryl Busch, who is also the mayor of the City of Perris and a member of the Riverside County Transportation Commission (RCTC).
The extension continues rail service 24-miles from the Riverside-Downtown station to South Perris, and adds new stations at Riverside-Hunter Park/UCR; Moreno Valley/March Field; Perris – Downtown; and Perris – South.
Prior to the service extension of the new 91/PVL, Metrolink prepared not only the infrastructure for the service, but also the local communities. Having passenger trains traveling through that area is new for residents and businesses, so rail safety precautions for both children and adults are critical. Extensive public outreach to communities along the Perris Valley Line to promote rail safety was completed in advance of trains operating in June. To increase awareness of the dangers of crossing railroad tracks, a continuing public outreach program, “See Tracks? Think Train,” was launched in select Riverside County schools, neighborhoods, community groups, and with the University of California, Riverside.
The 24-mile extension enhanced 15 at-grade crossings in Riverside County. Metrolink implemented a range of safety measures including flashing warning devices, gates, raised center medians, striping and pavement markings. The project also added pedestrian crosswalks at two railroad crossings and permanently closed two others.
To celebrate the new service, the agency is offering special grand opening fares for six months along the 91/Perris Valley Line extension along with the special incentive of a 10 percent discount on tickets starting at one of the new stations and traveling outside of Riverside County. While no weekend service to or from the four new stations is part of the plan, that could change.
“The Perris Valley Line extension’s ridership has been growing since the line opened,” reports Metrolink spokesperson Sherita Coffelt. “Passengers are providing feedback on the schedules and even requesting more service, especially on weekends. Our leadership is looking forward to adding service as the ridership grows and sees tremendous potential for the Perris Valley Extension.”
The 91/PVL isn’t the only cause for celebration for Metrolink this summer. In July, the agency celebrated the arrival of the first of 40 new Tier 4 locomotives. The state-of-the-art Electro-Motive Diesel (EMD) F125 locomotives, manufactured by Progress Rail, a Caterpillar company, are compliant with the latest U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Tier 4 emissions standards. It is anticipated that the Tier 4 locomotives will reduce particulate matter and nitrogen oxide emissions by up to 85 percent, making it the cleanest diesel locomotive in the nation. In addition to environmental benefits, the new engines will operate with up to 64 percent more horsepower, allowing Metrolink to move people more quickly and reliably.
Produced at the EMD plant in Muncie, Ind., the new locomotives will look noticeably different and will bear the logos of “Tier 4 Clean Power” and “PTC,” for Positive Train Control. Metrolink was the first passenger rail service in the nation to install Positive Train Control (PTC), a GPS-based safety technology capable of preventing train-to-train collisions, over-speed derailments, unauthorized incursion into work zones and train movement through switches left in the wrong position. PTC monitors and, if necessary, controls train movement in the event of human error. PTC may also bring trains to a safe stop in the event of a natural disaster.
The 40 locomotives will cost approximately $280 million. Funding has been provided through the South Coast Air Quality Management District’s (SCAQMD) Carl Moyer Program and the State of California's Transit and Intercity Rail Capital Program (TIRCP). The remaining budget will be accounted for through a combination of Metrolink member agency contributions and other subsidies.
“Transitioning to cleaner locomotives is vital to achieving our clean air goals for Southern California,” said SCAQMD Chairman William A. Burke, Ed.D. “We are pleased that Metrolink is participating in this transition, which will benefit the health of the 17 million residents in our region.”
In the past three years, SCAQMD approved $74.85 million in Carl Moyer Program allocations to Metrolink, with an additional $36 million to be considered in future requests. The California State Transportation Agency provided $41.2 million from the TIRCP. There was also an additional $2.7 million from the Low Carbon Transit Operations Program (LCTOP).
The Tier 4 locomotives represents another “first” for Metrolink, as in 2013 the agency became the first U.S. commuter-rail agency to purchase the low-emission Tier 4 locomotives. The first of the 40 locomotives will go into service throughout the Metrolink system in late 2016, with the remaining locomotives to arrive next year.