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Manteca’s high-speed future

State system may pass thru; ACE extension may stop here

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Manteca’s high-speed future

What an elevated California High Speed Rail track system would look like.

Photo contributed/

POSTED January 27, 2010 2:53 a.m.
California’s state-of-the-art high speed trains are likely to pass through the Manteca area.

At the same time the high-speed rail’s kissing cousin project – the Altamont Commuter Express – could possibly add a Manteca stop if its future high speed trains are extended south into Modesto.

There are three alignments being studied that would handle the Sacramento to Merced leg of the California High Speed Rail. The preferred route is along the existing Union Pacific right of way that slices through the heart of Manteca.

A variation of that route would swing the high speed corridor to the east north of Manteca in the vicinity of French Campo Road to join up with the Santa Fe right-of-way that would then head south toward Modesto and Merced.

Other routes would involve locating a station east of Stockton and then following two different alignments. One would roughly parallel Austin Road and join the Union Pacific alignment just south of Austin Road in Manteca and head through Ripon and into the Modesto station. It would come off the of Central California Traction Company right-of-way at a point near Escalon-Bellota Road east Stockton. The other variation of that route would have the line continuing along Escalon-Bellota and passing through Escalon en route to a station east of Modesto.

The only stops on the Sacramento to Merced leg – the alignment won’t be known until late 2012 at the earliest – would be Sacramento, Stockton, Modesto and Merced. It is designed as the second phase of the system which will first include a San Francisco to Los Angeles “backbone” that would enter the San Joaquin Valley via Pacheco Pass with stops in Merced, Fresno, Bakersfield and then the Los Angeles area. Another phase would run from Los Angeles to San Diego.

Legislation that was adopted with passage of the $10 billion Proposition 1A high speed rail bond in 2008 prohibits additional stops. It is the only way trains can go from Sacramento to Los Angeles in just under three hours.

The trains are designed to travel as fast as 220 mph. The only area, though, that the top speed is anticipated is the leg between Merced and Bakersfield. The speed will be slower in metropolitan areas. And although Manteca will not be a stop, trains won’t reach top speed between Stockton and Modesto due to the stations being within 30-plus miles of each other.

The electric powered trains will have separated grade crossings either elevated or below ground throughout much of the system to avoid conflicts with vehicles, pedestrians and animals.

Although it is too early for exact details, high speed rail representatives have indicated in all likelihood the trains passing through the Manteca area will be on elevated track.

Realistically, the first trains won’t start rolling until 2020 or later. The system is designed to handle trains every five minutes which is how supporters expect it to put a major dent in long intra-state vehicle travel. That level of frequency, though, isn’t likely to happen for years after the first trains roll if then. The business plan is based on fare being 83 percent of airfares charge to travel the same distances.

High speed could come to ACE sooner
At the same time, the ACE high speed train project is also moving forward with the project sharing the same engineering firm with the California High Speed Rail Project.

The $10 billion bond approved by voters also authorizes it to be used for the ACE project as well.

The ACE plan is a bit less complicated. It involves upgrading track along the existing Union Pacific line that it currently uses. By upgrading tracks high speed trains could move between Tracy and Livermore across the Altamont Pass where currently trains could move as slow as 10 mph at speeds close to 150 mph.

It would reduce the current ACE trip to San Jose from a little over two hours and 10 minutes to 55 minutes. The ACE trains now match the average commute time that those in cars must deal with during peak hours between San Jose and Stockton. It will still beat the off-peak hours as you can get form Manteca to San Jose in a little over an hour without having to worry about traffic accidents and other delays.

It would also allow more frequent trains that would run throughout the day.

The plan is to do an even better job coordinating with regional transit systems to avoid the need to use vehicles once you arrive in the Bay Area.

The ACE system in much of the Bay Area as well as between Tracy, and Stockton and ultimate Manteca and Modesto would likely operate at reduced speed on ungraded tracks currently in place.

A plan to develop synergy with the California High Speed Rail would mean regional ACE trains could be added from San Jose to Sacramento as well as Merced to San Jose.

ACE would head south into Modesto
The ACE system is being studied for possible connection with the state high speed system to reach Modesto.

Both alignments go through Manteca.

One would follow the Union Pacific line into Modesto.

The other would veer off somewhere south of the Highway 120 Bypass and hook up with  the rail line corridor that parallels East Highway 120 between French Camp Road and Escalon and head into the area east of Modesto from there.

There is a possibility that if ACE is extended into Stanislaus County a Manteca stop could be added at South Main Street where the city is preparing to build an intermodal transit station.
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