February 25, 2021
Rail Planning Team
Nevada Department of Transportation
PO Box 8096 Reno, NV 89507
RE: Toiyabe Chapter Sierra Club Comments on Draft Nevada State Rail Plan 2021
Dear NDOT Rail Planning Team:
Thank you for the opportunity to review this draft plan. First, we agree strongly with the stated purpose of the Rail Plan, to support “Nevada’s commitment to creating a balanced transportation system that moves goods and people sustainably.” Next, we appreciate the detailed description of and proposals for ways to meet this goal, including addressing legal and ownership challenges and the need to identify funding both private and public. We also recognize the extensive outreach to user groups, businesses, communities, and other organizations throughout the state. We think this unprecedented (in our experience) outreach makes it a better plan, and identifies a constituency that may help implement the ambitious goals.
We note that much of the plan covers freight services. We support the detailed analysis of and proposals for a private sector, business-driven-and-funded freight rail system. We understand that rebuilding or building anew a robust freight rail system in and through Nevada will go far to help meet the Sierra Club’s goals to move freight nationally in a way that is less fossil-fuel intensive, less polluting, and that uses less land than the current system with its overemphasis on truck transport on interstate highways. We appreciate the comprehensive approach taken in this plan to rebuilding a freight rail system, and we especially support the better-integrated land use, economic, and rail/transportation planning called for in this plan.
Most of our following comments, however, are about the passenger rail proposals described in Chapter 3, the Nevada Passenger Rail Strategic Plan, and in the lists of projects in Chapter 5, The State’s Rail Service Investment Program.
We support all the passenger and commuter rail services outlined in Chapter 3, specifically including:
Amtrak improvements including station ADA upgrades, new stations, equipment upgrades, and more frequent service.
- The plan correctly points out that Amtrak service is critical to rural Nevada, especially for those who cannot drive. In the towns it passes through, it is the only public transportation option. Therefore, we strongly support the Amtrak improvements in the plan, and we urge that they all be completed in the 0-4-year timeframe, including the addition of more daily trains.
Commuter rail service between Reno and Innovation Park, and other northern Nevada transit improvements.
- We see the development of an industrial park with businesses employing thousands, without any public transportation to the workplaces, as a spectacular example of poor transportation planning. It should not have happened, and we are pleased that this plan starts to remedy that by proposing a commuter rail service between Reno and Innovation Park. We strongly support this proposal, and we suggest that the commuter service between Reno and Innovation Park is the first step in a commuter rail system for northern Nevada, as outlined in the Sierra Club’s Proposal for Rail Passenger Service in Northern Nevada. (Chapter 3, PP 3-31 and 32.)
Capitol Corridor Extension to Reno
- We strongly support extension of the existing Bay Area-Sacramento Capitol Corridor service to Reno, and we urge that NDOT cooperate with Caltrans to establish this service. We think that since this will be a popular service on existing tracks with existing equipment, it should be moved to completion in the 0-4 year time frame rather than in the 5-20 year time frame that is currently in the plan.
Southern California to Las Vegas high speed rail coordinated with new commuter rail connections in Las Vegas.
- We are encouraged at news reports that say that the Brightline West Express project between Rancho Cucamunga and Las Vegas will break ground this year. We support the plan’s proposed development of commuter rail options to bring riders from the Brightline station to the Las Vegas core.
TRIPS funding proposal
● We see this as a critical component of this plan.
The Sierra Club – both nationally and in Nevada – understands that, with the exception of modern commuter rail systems in some cities, we lag behind most other developed countries in rail transportation. One of the reasons for this lag is lack of funding. We will support any new state law needed to create TRIPS Infrastructure Funding, and we will rally our members in support when it is introduced in the Nevada Legislature.
Thank you again for creating this robust rail plan for the state of Nevada. We look forward to continuing to support the implementation of this plan and working towards our collective goals for passenger rail.
Sierra Club Toiyabe Chapter Transportation Team