Downtown Manteca’s transit station is on target for completion in June.
Now all the station needs is Altamont Commuter Express passenger train service.
And the earliest that could happen is 2018.
“It (2018) is a pretty aggressive target,” noted Stacey Mortensen, executive director for the San Joaquin Rail Commission.
Mortensen said establishment of a target date was key to get those involved with the effort focused on the goal. She added Stanislaus County securing their own sales tax for transit projects would make the project more likely to happen.
It would cost $161 million to extend ACE train service along the existing Union Pacific Railroad corridor through Manteca and into downtown Modesto as part of the first phase. The balance of the project would take the train to Turlock and then Merced where it would connect with the California High Speed Rail system. Merced is where the high speed trains will stop at a station going to and from Los Angeles and the Bay Area via Pacheco Pass.
The project includes 20.3 miles of track to essentially double track the corridor from Lathrop to downtown Modesto. The doubling tracking would cost $40.6 million for construction while the 250 acres of right-of-way required is expected to cost $50 million. Structures- such as bridges - would add another $30 million while a signal system would cost $40.6 million.
Mortensen said double tracking was essential due to the heavy freight train movement on the UP line. Working on one track would make commute times longer as freight movements would slow down passenger service.
The only other stop on the extension to Merced could be Turlock. The rail commission is currently in discussion with that city about passenger train service.
ACE train service is eventually targeted to connect with Sacramento.
When that happens ACE would provide a commute corridor from Sacramento to San Jose as well as Merced to the Bay Area. The system is also designed to connect with California High Speed Rail trains in Merced and San Jose.
You would be able to ride from one station to another just like on the existing ACE corridor from the Lathrop-Manteca station on West Yosemite Avenue. But unlike going from Lathrop-Manteca to Stockton that puts you far away from downtown, a southern ACE line would take you from downtown Manteca to downtown Modesto.
Moving forward at the same time is the $77 million capital improvement project to the Altamont Pass corridor. The project being funded in part with $38.5 million in Measure M sales tax receipts would initially shave 10 minutes each way off the current commute from Stockton to San Jose that averages an hour and 40 minutes one-way.
Additional improvements that are eligible for funding from the state high speed rail bonds - would further enhance the Altamont Pass crossing. Currently trains as slow as 25 mph at some points due to curving tracks. A straighter shot designed to accommodate high speed trains could get the running time between Stockton and San Jose down to 55 minutes. That would involve bridges as well as an expensive tunnel.
Mortensen noted that while ACE can apply for state bond funds the higher priority is now building the first leg of the California High Speed Rail system.
Should ACE eventually get high speed service as well, much of the track that would be put into place with the current extension plans could still be used. The most likely route for high speed trains through Manteca if that happens would be the middle of the 120 Bypass corridor before connecting with the UP corridor heading south.
Since the tracks are designed to be shared with the state system. Ultimately the most direct route to Sacramento from Los Angeles could be on high speed that would go through downtown Modesto, Manteca and Stockton to the state capital.