The San Joaquin Regional Rail Commission will host scoping meetings for the extension of the Altamont Corridor Express (ACE) train to Ceres and Merced.
The SJRRC invites the public, agencies and stakeholders to join one of three virtual scoping meetings (webinars) to learn more about the project to extend ACE service to Merced.
SJRRC has to prepare an environmental impact report (EIR) because of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) to evaluate any potential environmental issues from the proposed project. The EIR will assess and inform the public about potential impacts and mitigation measures if necessary. Once this EIR process is completed and certified by the fall of 2021, the project may move forward to final design and construction. Final design and construction should be between 2022 and 2024 with service starting in 2025 – years later than originally projected.
Because of state-mandated COVID-19 social distancing requirements, upcoming scoping meetings will be conducted by webinar format so the public can learn more about the project and the environmental review process underway as well as comment. The first webinar scoping meeting will occur 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. on June 25. The second will take place 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. on June 25. The third will take place 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. on June 30.
The link to join each virtual scoping meeting will be made available on the webpage (https://acerail.com/mercedextension-eir) the day of the webinar. Visit https://acerail. com/merced-extension-eir to sign up to receive email reminders for these webinars.
The meetings will begin with an overview of the project and the CEQA process, followed by questions and answers based on questions submitted online from attendees. All three meetings will be identical in format and content.
SJRRC is planning to extend ACE passenger rail service from Lathrop to Ceres and Merced by upgrading existing tracks and constructing new tracks at certain locations within the existing Union Pacific Railroad right-of-way over 34 miles. Three new stations, including ones in Ceres and Merced and one in either Turlock, Livingston or Atwater and a layover and maintenance facility would be constructed along the extension alignment.
The project would consist of:
• A Ceres to Merced Extension Alignment consisting of upgrades and new tracks and bridges within the UPRR Fresno Subdivision between Ceres and Merced;
• New Turlock, Livingston or Atwater, and Merced stations along the route;
• A new permanent Merced Layover & Maintenance Facility to support extension operations.
Initial funding of $400 million for the project was approved by the SB1 fuel tax legislation in 2017.
SJRRC manages and operates the ACE service, which currently provides commuter rail service between San Jose and Stockton. The existing 86-mile ACE service corridor passes through Santa Clara, Alameda, and San Joaquin counties, with 10 stations along the route. At the western end, ACE operates on an approximately four-mile segment of track between San Jose and Santa Clara owned and operated by the Peninsula Corridor Joint Powers Board. North of the Santa Clara station to Stockton, ACE operates on approximately 82 miles of track owned by Union Pacific.
The extension is intended to enhance commuter rail and intercity service and transit connectivity in the Valley, reduce traffic congestion, improve air quality, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and promote local and regional land use and transportation sustainability goals.
At full operation, ACE train service would consist of three northbound morning trains running from Merced (stopping in Ceres) to the Natomas/ Sacramento Airport Station (included in the Valley Rail Sacramento Extension Project). Passengers boarding in Merced, Stanislaus and San Joaquin counties would either stay on the train to Sacramento or transfer to three westbound trains toward San Jose at Lathrop. One westbound train would run from Merced to the San Jose Diridon Station. In the evening, three southbound trains would run from Natomas/Sacramento Airport Station to Merced. ACE passengers returning from the Bay Area would transfer at the Lathrop Station (timed transfers) onto one of three Sacramento to Merced trains. One eastbound/southbound train would run from the San Jose Diridon Station to Merced.
The Ceres station is proposed west of Highway 99 northwest of Whitmore Park. Parking will be created on the east side of the freeway with lighted pedestrian walkways underneath the freeway.
Written responses and comments on the scope of the ACE Ceres-Merced Extension Project will be accepted until 5 p.m. July 7.
Written comments may be sent to the San Joaquin Regional Rail Commission, Attn: ACE CeresMerced Extension Project, 949 East Channel Street, Stockton CA 95202. Comments may also be submitted by email to mercedextcomments@acerail. com. Include “ACE Ceres-Merced Extension Project” in the subject heading.
For more information about the project and to receive email reminders for the webinars, subscribe to our Project e-mail list at: www.acerail.com/merced-extension-eir