A messy dispute between the Ventura County Transportation Commission and the Fillmore & Western Railway could bring an end to the latter’s vintage rail service. The VCTC owns railroad tracks between Ventura and Fillmore and has leased the tracks to the railway to operate a for-profit heritage passenger train. However, the VCTC wishes to terminate the lease, claiming that Fillmore & Western has not performed the maintenance that both sides agreed to and that the railroad overcharged VCTC for the maintenance that was performed. Western& Fillmore has since sued the agency in court in an attempt to block the termination of the lease, even as the two entities continue to work out a new lease that could potentially address the above issues.
Assemblymember Das Williams has been at the forefront of reforming transportation governance in Ventura County. This week, the State Assembly Transportation Committee took one step in that direction by passing AB 664, a bill written by Williams that would create a new entity to run public transit in the western part of the county. This would allow public transit dollars to flow towards regional services, with the hope that eastern cities would join the new transit district in the future. However, a separate bill, SB 203, would retain an exemption that allows Ventura County to spend public transit funds from the state for road maintenance.