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Additional state funding to speed up rail projects

Valley rail service received another boost of funding, bringing local rail closer to completion.

The San Joaquin Regional Rail Commission and the San Joaquin Joint Powers Authority received an additional $142 million for the Valley Rail Program and ACE corridor improvements. 

These additional funds will ensure the completion of three project areas, encompassing nine individual components, including: (1) Natomas, Elk Grove, North Lathrop, Manteca, Modesto, Ceres, and Madera Valley Rail stations, (2) the Stockton Diamond Grade Separation, and (3) ACE platform extensions at Lathrop/Manteca, Tracy, Vasco Rd, Livermore, and Pleasanton stations.

The additional state resources will help fill funding gaps created by supply chain and inflationary pressures to complete construction while protecting and leveraging significant federal and local investments.

“We would like the thank the administration for its continued support of passenger rail,” states Stacey Mortensen, Executive Director of SJRRC and SJJPA. “The additional funding will help fill funding gaps created by the nationwide supply chain and cost escalation environment. It is our mission to deliver on these projects to bring increased sustainable transportation to the San Joaquin Valley and our neighboring regions.”

Valley Rail is an ambitious program to improve passenger rail connectivity and accessibility between the Central Valley, Bay Area and Sacramento regions. This program creates additional round-trips between Fresno, Merced and Sacramento on Amtrak San Joaquin line and builds upon SB 132 funding ($400 million) and previous TIRCP Cycle 3 funding ($500.5 million) for the expansion of new Altamont Corridor Express (ACE) train service to Sacramento and Ceres. These services will connect Merced, Ceres, Modesto, Stockton, Sacramento, and Fresno, allowing ridership growth.

Valley Rail will improve connectivity to disadvantaged communities throughout Northern California, reduce GHG emissions and vehicle miles traveled, promote sustainability, and enable essential future passenger rail connectivity to the High-Speed Rail Early Operating Segment in Merced. In addition, the funding to complete the ACE platform extensions will help leverage the current corridor by adding the ability for ACE to run longer trainsets.

Funding from the Senate Bill 1 deal in 2017 to increase the state gas tax including money to extend ACE service from Ceres to Sacramento is already in place with at least one train added to go from Ceres to San Jose.

That service will be up and running in 2023.

Ultimately, ACE will be extended to Merced to connect with the California High Speed Rail system.

A segment of the high speed from Bakersfield to Merced could be up and running by the end of the decade.

The latest funding means ACE service will reach Turlock several or so years ahead of 2030, possibly within a few years of trains staring to serve Ceres.

Initially, three trains will depart Ceres Monday through Friday.

All three will make stops in Modesto, Ripon and downtown Manteca.

Two trains will continue north to Lathrop-Manteca, Stockton, Elk Grove, Sacramento, and Natomas north of the American River ending several miles from Sacramento International Airport.

One train will head toward San Jose with stops at Lathrop-Manteca, Tracy, Vasco Road, Livermore, Pleasanton, Fremont, Great America, Santa Clara and then San Jose.

Additional trains are planned after the service is established.

The state funding — plus future requests that likely will be approved — will get ACE service to Merced ahead of high-speed rail.