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Rail News Home Rail Industry Trends

11/29/2004



Rail News: Rail Industry Trends

California appellate court redefines utilities' jurisdiction for state light-rail systems


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Last week, the California Court of Appeal (Sixth Appellate District) ruled the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) could not regulate light-rail street crossings to the same extent it regulates freight- and passenger-rail crossings. The ruling applies to all California transit agencies that operate light-rail systems.

In 2001, CPUC opposed Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority’s (VTA) proposal to construct a street-level light-rail crossing at Hamilton Avenue in Campbell as part of the Vasona light-rail extension, despite detailed traffic analyses that showed the crossing would be appropriate for traffic volume, access and safety regulations, according to VTA. Although authority officials disagreed with CPUC’s jurisdiction, they redesigned the crossing as an aerial over-crossing to keep the project on schedule.

Because CPUC’s jurisdiction would affect other light-rail crossings throughout the state, VTA officials appealed the utilities’ decision.

The court annulled CPUC’s decision, finding that VTA has the independent authority to locate and construct light-rail street crossings. CPUC still retains safety jurisdiction over light-rail crossings, but its authority is not as extensive as it is for freight and passenger crossings, the court ruled.



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