City on track for excursion train project to carry passengers south

By: Roger Phelps, The Telegraph
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It's not as if Folsom wants to run visitors out of town on a rail. The city and fellow joint-powers authority members will do a formal Request for Proposals on an excursion train project to carry tourists and others across the city's southern border and then east toward Placerville. Folsom could chalk up toward visitor-friendliness any such private enterprise that came about, but some city officials still are cool toward the idea. Folsom and three other jurisdictions own the old Southern Pacific tracks in the area. Some entrepreneurial interest is on record for an excursion train project. Folsom City Council members Oct. 9 wondered whether fellow joint-power rail-line owners could force the approval of such a project within city limits. "I think it's a political issue," said Jon Hobbs, assistant city attorney. "The joint powers authority does have jurisdiction. We could look at getting written documents granting right of refusal." Other JPA members are the counties of Sacramento and El Dorado, and the Sacramento Regional Transit District. El Dorado County has converted a portion of the old rail right-of-way east of Placerville to a public trail for cyclists, walkers and equestrians, and has plans for a trail extending west of Placerville, as well. So far, apparently no one believes a tourist train would preclude extending developed bike-trail mileage on the right of way. "They should not be mutually exclusive," Rich Lorenz, city public works director, said before the meeting. "The intent in a perfect world is that all will be accommodated." "We don't want a dinner train," said resident Madeleine Moseley, one of those who might file a train-line proposal. "That's too expensive. And we want a trail for everybody to use through there." No precise extent of an excursion line has been proposed either inside or outside Folsom. The publicly owned old right-of-way winds south of U.S. Highway 50 through Latrobe, Cameron Park, Shingle Springs and Diamond Springs to cross Weber Creek into Placerville, terminating at Camino Heights to the east. It enters Folsom from the southwest near Folsom Boulevard and cuts through what is now south Folsom, leaving town parallel to East Bidwell Street. "What I've heard excitement about is from the college on (southeast)," said Councilman Steve Miklos. Councilwoman Kerri Howell, city JPA representative, said the request for proposals is no more than "opening a door" to all who might propose a private excursion train project on public property. That way, the city solicits competition for the use of public property.