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ACE: What a trip

From the 209’s back roads and countryside to new Levi Stadium

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POSTED May 17, 2014 1:31 a.m.

The last time I rode aboard the ACE train was five years ago.

I was among the chaperones for my son Josh’s eighth-grade class trip to California Great America. No one thought back then that, for these students, this day would mark their last time all together.  In a few months, they would embark into high school and go their separate ways.

That day aboard the Altamont Corridor Express also provided memories for the adults in the group. As parents, we had developed a bond over the years, from back-to-school events to Christmas pageants and other get-togethers.

The train departed from the Robert J. Cabral Station in Stockton.

Cabral was one of the founding fathers of the San Joaquin Regional Rail Commission and ACE service. A tribute to his legacy is the traditional clock tower in front of this historic train depot at 949 E. Channel St.

From there, we rolled into the Lathrop/Manteca at 17800 Shideler Parkway. For now, this station in the Lathrop industrial park is easy access for those in the surrounding areas (expansion into the new downtown transit station in Manteca to Merced are part of the future plans). Included are Modesto, Oakdale, Escalon and Ripon.

Stop No. 3 brought us to the Tracy ACE Station, 4800 Tracy Blvd. This is the second-most popular stop along the route for passengers boarding.

There’s a novelty about riding ACE for the first time. You see many of the “back roads” of Manteca and Tracy. It’s more agricultural and rural areas not seen from the freeways and streets.

Even with large group of kids mixed in with a few commuters – I can only imagine that the earlier trains are the regulars doing work on their laptops – the ride is leisurely way of getting to the TriValley and Bay Area. Just being away from the crowded freeway traffic was relaxing.

The view – or in this case, the terrain – became more interesting while riding along the Altamont Pass, going from Tracy to Livermore.

We came to a halt at the Vasco Road Station at 575 South Vasco Rd in Livermore. On-site food and beverages are here if you need to grab a quick bite.

Not too far from here is the Livermore Station at 2418 Railroad Ave. This is a popular stop for those planning a day in downtown Livermore.

As we got rolling, we made yet another quick stop. This time at the Pleasanton Station located at 4950 Pleasanton Ave.

Little did we know but we were two stops away from our destination. The kids were getting a bit antsy shortly after leaving the TriValley area en route to Fremont.

Of all the stops, the Centerville Depot in Fremont was the most interesting. The station at 37260 Fremont Blvd. appears the same as the 1910 historical Southern Pacific station, according to ACE.

In addition to catching ACE, this stop is a connection to the Amtrak Capitol Corridor trains. Travelers can also grab a snack at the Depot Diner.

The train proceeded along Lafayette Drive, passing though a golf course and under Highway 237. The view includes mudflats and sloughs of the bay, through the sunken ghost town of Drawbridge, and through landfill prior to Newark.

Finally, we’re here. Time wise, ACE made for a longer ride to Great America. But it sure beat carpooling or riding a bus and getting caught up in traffic.

The Great America Station at 5099 Stars & Stripes in Santa Clara will soon become even popular as Levi Stadium, the new home of the National Football League’s San Francisco 49ers, is scheduled to open.

Five years ago, this was still a dream. We tried to imagine how a stadium would fit in this parking space between theme park and the 49ers practice facility.

Now it’s a reality.

Levi Stadium is set to open in August. This $1.2 billion state-of-the-arts venue will have 1.85 million square feet, seating approximately 68,500 with 165 luxury suites and 8,500 club seats.

In 2016, the Santa Clara facility will play host to Super Bowl 50.

Expect ACE to be part of this event and more as fans and even non-sport fans can have a great overall experience.

What started in October 1998 with two trains operating each way and on weekends only is about to grow to new heights.

How that plays out will be determined when the NFL season kicks off.

More information on ACE can be obtained by logging on to www.acerail.com.

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