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Maintenance facility breaks ground
Lathrop Councilman and ACE Commissioner Sonny Dhaliwal gets help taking off his glove after setting his hand in the ceremonial cement as Stockton Mayor and ACE Vice Chair Ann Johnston looks on during Fridays groundbreaking for the new ACE maintenance facility. - photo by HIME ROMERO

STOCKTON – The Altamont Commuter Express Maintenance and Layover Facility could be the most significant construction project to hit the region.

That was the buzz shared by dignitaries and elected officials attending Friday’s V.I.P. ground-breaking event at the 64-acre site in Stockton at West Lane and East Alpine Avenue.

The site is ideal as a maintenance / layover hub, according to Manteca Councilman John Harris. He also sits on the San Joaquin Regional Rail Commission, which owns, operates, and is the policy-making body for the ACE service.

“You couldn’t ask for a better location,” said Harris, who needed only to look out in the directions of the two Union Pacific Railroad lines – the Fresno subdivision is northeast of the site while the Sacramento subdivision is situated west of the lot – that intersects the future home of the $57 million ACE facility to make his point.

Plans were eight years in the making.

San Joaquin County Supervisor and SJRRC Chairman Steve Bestolarides noted that tough economic times came as a benefit, lowering the price for the land, thus, making this “one of the best times to undertake a project of this scale,” he said.

The project – included will be 19,000 feet of storage tracks and three 30-ton capacity overhead cranes – was made possible via federal, state and local funding, according to Bestolarides.

The facility will handle repair, maintenance, cleaning and overnight storage of passenger cars and locomotives used by the ACE service and future rail service expansions. A rail yard owned and operated by Union Pacific Railroad in south Stockton currently accommodates the ACE trains.

The new facility, according to Congressman Jerry McNerney (D-Pleasanton), is an important investment to San Joaquin County’s infrastructure.

“It’ll create hundreds of jobs,” he said.

Stockton Mayor Ann Johnston, who serves as the vice chair on the rail commission, indicated that other jobs could open up following the two-year construction period. “Twenty-nine permanent jobs once it opens and 72 more after the expansion,” she said.

Johnston also praised the project as one of the first in the nation to go entirely green. “This can serve as a model for other facilities,” she said.

ACE service in San Joaquin County consists of about 13,000 riders, according to Lathrop City Councilman Sonny Dhaliwal, who also serves on the rail commission.

“Many come from Manteca, Lathrop, Ripon and Modesto,” he said.

Added Harris: “The last time I checked most (of those riders) were from Manteca.”

Some do travel as far as Merced to use the ACE train on a daily basis, from the Central Valley to the Silicon Valley. Merced County Supervisor John Pedroza attended the ground breaking.

“I can’t wait to see this facility once it’s up and running,” he said.

Construction of the maintenance and layover facility will be handled by Flintco Pacific Inc.

The project is scheduled for completion in August 2013.