California governor seeks additional $11 billion for transportation projects
California Gov. Gavin Newsom, aided by the presence of a projected budget surplus of more than $75 billion, is proposing to add $11 billion for transportation to the state budget for the 2021-22 fiscal year. The additional funds — which would bring the total transportation budget to $29 billion — includes $1 billion for “critical projects” in the Los Angeles area to prepare for the 2028 Olympics; $1 billion for transit and rail projects statewide; $500 million for projects to increase the number of trips that can be made by walking or biking; $500 million for grade crossing separation and improvement projects; $407 million for zero-emission rail and transit equipment purchases; $2 billion for highway and local road rehabilitation, and $1.4 billion for zero-emission trucks and buses. The $11 billion figure also includes $4.2 billion to complete work on Central Valley portion of the state’s high speed rail project, as well as planning for other sections, but that does not represent new funding from the surplus. Instead, it is money already designated for the project that some legislators had hoped to redirect elsewhere. The full budget plan is here; the transportation portion begins on page 181.
Union ratifies last of contracts with VIA Rail Canada
Local 100 of labor union Unifor has ratified its two-year agreement for maintenance workers with VIA Rail Canada, a deal retroactive to Jan. 1, 2020 that will expire this December. The union represents approximately 700 workers. The deal includes a 2% wage increase for 2021 and benefits improvements as well as a review of several work rules. “We are delighted that all collective agreements have now been ratified,” Martine Rivard, VIA chief employee experience officer, said in a press release. “… Employees in our maintenance centres are crucial in ensuring that we offer a safe and enjoyable travel experience to our passengers and we look forward to continuing to work together in order to keep being the smarter way to travel.” Other agreements between VIA and Unifor were ratified earlier this year [see “Digest: Union ratifies new agreements …,” Trains News Wire, March 15, 2021].
Napa Valley Wine Train returns to operation
California’s Napa Valley Wine Train is resuming operation today (Monday, May 17), owner Noble House Hotels & Resorts has announced. The North Bay Business Journal reports operations will resume with the train’s “Legacy Tour,” a three-hour trip including a four-course meal and tasting stops at two wineries. Other trips will resume in mid-June. Operations will feature distancing and partitions separating tables; guests are asked to wear a mask except when eating or drinking. “We are thrilled to bring back our one-of-a-kind experiences for locals and visitors,” Steven Lampkin, area director for Noble House, said, “and have implemented numerous safety measures to give passengers peace of mind while enjoying the Wine Train’s world-class dining and picturesque setting.” More information is available at the Wine Train website.