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Polis Report

Train Spotting

By Eric Johnson

The photo on page B-1 of last Monday's Mercury News, a head-on shot of heavy traffic, was tinted a pretty orange--not by Photoshop, but by sunlight through airborne chemicals.

The article, a Gary Richards "Roadshow" column, reported that traffic on Highway 280 is more than twice as bad as it was two years ago. In the three years since the opening of Highway 85--the Gilroy-to-Mountain View expressway built to take pressure off 280--things have only gotten worse, Richards said.

A map showing the area's major travel routes accompanied the story. Of course, it showed no rail lines or public transit.

Readers were not alerted to the presence of smog in the photo or the absence of public transit on the map, much less any connection between these two phenomena. As usual, Richards' column, which lets readers vent about driving woes and offers somewhat informative, slightly witty responses, left unmentioned the main reason for traffic nightmares in the South Bay.

Similarly, the Merc has missed a breakthrough in a modest effort to alleviate automobile congestion and pollution in the area.

Last month, Gov. Pete Wilson signed into law a bill authored by Assemblyman Fred Keeley (D-Santa Cruz) designed to provide state funding for intercity train service throughout the South Bay and beyond.

The bill creates two "corridors" which will be eligible for funding. One would allow for train service from San Jose through Gilroy and on to Watsonville and Santa Cruz. The other would run from Oakland to Salinas-- again through the South Bay.

Because many Sacramento lawmakers are no more tuned in to railroad commuting than Merc reporters, the bill is a baby-step toward real rail service. At best, Keeley's office says, it will mean the rebirth of the San Jose-to-Santa Cruz "Suntan Special," so we can see those sunset colors where they belong.

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From the Oct. 23-29, 1997 issue of Metro.

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