December 30, 2010 Leave a comment
The Ventura County Transportation Commission now owns the existing railroad through the valley and an easement extending to the LA County line. Through a lease with the commission, the Fillmore and Western Railway operates popular sightseeing trains on the line from Santa Paula to Piru. Ventura County Supervisor Long and Santa Clarita Mayor Weste recently discussed a plan that would extend that line to Santa Clarita.
As the map above shows, reasonably completing a regional rail network involves building a line through Santa Clarita. Local opposition to such a plan is so strong, the City will only consider extending the Heritage Valley line to the city limits. The Trojan Horse will not be allowed inside the gates.
A Santa Clarita to Santa Paula line is expected enhance area tourism, drawing visitors down into the Heritage Valley and augmenting Santa Clarita as a tourist destination.
However fully connecting the Heritage Valley line to the existing railroad network is vital to Ventura County’s economy. The single existing rail connection through the county is strained, forcing passenger and freight trains on the same track. The Metrolink 111 disaster is a constant reminder of the risks of a crowded rail system.
Completing the Heritage Valley line should be a economic priority for the next 20 years. Port Hueneme will need better connections to increase exports. Ventura County will require a rail connection to the High Speed Rail System. The use of the railroad to haul freight will decrease truck traffic in the valley. A passenger line could bring visitors into Ventura.
Unfortunately the railroad extension is not only issue where Ventura County’s economic interests clash with Santa Clarita’s suburbia. The salt content of the Santa Clara River downstream of Santa Clarita has elevated to a level deemed too high for agriculture use. As part of a deal with Ventura County farmers, Santa Clarita water users are required to fund a $210 million treatment plant to remove chloride from water discharged into the river. A battle over the necessity of the costly project has erupted pitting Santa Clarita taxpayers against Ventura County farmers.
Hopefully a suitable solution to the water issue is found. Economic growth of Ventura County will depend on a favorable relationship with Santa Clarita residents.