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ACE train comes with tax catch
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With a tentative completion date set for 2022, the Altamont Corridor Express or ACE train is hoping to extend out to Merced as part of its ACE forward project, making Turlock one of its stops.

The proposed rail system would essentially connect Merced to San Jose, meaning Turlock residents could reach the bay all via public transportation.

Having this rail connection may be alluring, but it’s going to come with a hefty price tag.

At an informational session held by ACE on Wednesday night, officials said the total cost to come down to Merced would run an additional $200 million on top of the current costs to bring the rail to Modesto by 2018.

In total, ACE is looking at $360 million for the entire project, and is banking on a transportation sales tax to pay for a large part of the bill.

“If you want to have leverage, you have to find a local source of funding,” said Stacey Mortensen, executive director of ACE.

And the expected ticket fare revenues won’t be enough.

Currently, only 38 percent, or $6.5 million is generated through fares alone, so ACE officials will be looking at tax measures to suffice for the rest of ongoing costs.

However, Stanislaus County residents have been leery of transportation taxes in the past. In 2008, residents shot down a county-wide road tax as it failed to get the two thirds vote it needed to pass.

Last month, the Turlock City Council tabled the decision to vote on a road tax, after hearing that a county-wide option may be revisited.

Even in the face of the heavy cost, the idea for the project has garnered public support from local residents. Modesto resident Jeanie Knox said she is in full support of bringing the ACE rail to Turlock, citing the potential benefits it would have to students of the city's university.

“It’s really the most logical solution,” said Knox. “Students would be able to go on field trips without having to take on additional cost.”

The proposed rail would run alongside the current Union Pacific Rail line and could connect Turlock residents to San Jose in a little over two hours, according to ACE.