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Rail expansion topic of tonights town hall meet
ACE TRAIN4 7-30-16 copy
Commuters disembark an ACE train at the Lathrop/Manteca station. - photo by HIME ROMERO/The Bulletin

ACE Forward   — the proposed hybrid northern end of the California High Speed Rail to extend service initially from Merced to the Bay Area — has the potential of increasing Altamont Corridor Express ridership 350% to 6 million by 2025.
That’s just one of the impacts of the proposed $950 million ACE Forward endeavor that will be shared with attendees at tonight’s San Joaquin Rail Commission’s town hall meeting at the Manteca Civic Center, 1001 W. Center St., from 7 to 9 p.m.
The project’s enhanced funding chances come from the fact the state high speed rail commission is now pursuing a strategy to get trains into the Los Angeles Basin and the Bay Area by having conventional passenger trains connect with high speed rail service initially at Merced in the north and Bakersfield in the south.
Among the ultimate direct impacts ACE Forward could have on Manteca, Lathrop, Ripon, and Tracy by 2025 includes:
uSix ACE train round-trips between Merced and San Jose on doubled tracks through Manteca. That means 12 more trains will pass daily through Manteca’s 10 at-grade crossings. There would be almost 300,000 riders a year boarding trains in downtown Manteca.
uSix daily trains would stop at the downtown Manteca Transit station at Moffat and Main in downtown.
uA station at River Islands would replace the existing Lathrop/Manteca station.
uA Ripon station could be added and would have just under 250,000 annual boardings.
uThe Tracy stop could be shifted to that city’s new downtown transit station. Tracy — which is now the heaviest stop for passenger service with 350,000 riders a year — would still claim that distinction in 2025 with 900,000 riders.
uModesto would have the second highest riders on the ACE system with just over 800,000. There would be almost a million a year boarding in Merced but almost four-fifths would be transfers from the high speed rail.
uCommuters from communities to the east of Manteca along the 120 corridor running up into the foothills would no longer be able to access trains at the Lathrop/Manteca station since it would be relocated to River Islands making the downtown Manteca the closest stop for them.  That would add to parking pressures for the downtown Manteca station.
uThe 58-mile extension to Merced from Lathrop would require double tracking given ACE can’t use Union Pacific tracks as it is one of the most heavily congested freight tracks in California. ACE would use the new track predominately during passenger operating hours. At other times it could move Union Pacific freight.
Specific improvements to add additional round-trips between San Jose and Stockton as well as extending service to Merced would be categorically exempt from the formal environmental review process. That is because they are in the Union Pacific right-of-way or are safety projects.
Currently 50 percent of the operating and maintenance costs for ACE are covered by fares. The balance comes from transportation sales tax measure is the three counties ACE currently serves.
Other talking points the rail commission has about ACE Forward includes:
uIt would reduce greenhouse gas given the Metropolitan Transportation Commission estimates traffic on Interstate 580 through the Altamont Pass will increase 75 percent by 2035.
uACE Forward would promote walkable/bikeable communities and the revitalization of core urban areas. With the exception of Ripon, all proposed ACE stations in the San Joaquin Valley are in areas which have been designated by the state as “disadvantaged communities.”
ACE currently makes four round-trips weekdays from Stockton to San Jose carrying almost 1.3 million passengers a year.
ACE Forward — the name given the  proposed upgrades to the system — calls for improvements to be made that will allow increased train frequency. The first goal is to increase train trips by 50 percent to six daily round trips by 2019. After that the goal is for at least 10 daily round trips by 2023.
ACE Forward was born after the California High Speed Rail Commission opted to get their service up and running by building high speed rail tracks between Merced and the southern part of the San Joaquin Valley. At those two points connections will be made with upgraded conventional rail service to reach the Los Angeles Basin and the San Francisco Bay Area. It is part of a blended system designed to get high speed rail service up and running within the next five to 10 years.
ACE Forward replaces — for now — the Altamont Corridor Rail Project that was designed to slash travel time from Stockton to San Jose from two hours and 12 minutes to 55 minutes. That would have been done by providing ACE with fully grade separated tracks with electrification to possibly accommodate high speed rail trains. It also involves  new tracks over the Altamont that would allow speeds up to 150 mph instead of the curvy tracks that slow trains down to 25 mph. That plan called for the possible extension of service to Modesto.

ACE times to San Jose
would decrease at least 10%
The new game plan that is being done in concert with the California High Speed Rail Authority will employ next generation higher speed diesel-powered engines. It would allow top train speeds of 110 to 125 mph for a 10 percent reduction in travel time with the goal ultimately to reduce travel time by 20 percent.
That would mean a current ACE trip to San Jose from:
uLathrop/Manteca would go from one hour and 53 minutes to one hour and 40 minutes.
uStockton would go from two hour and 12 minutes to one hour and 59 minutes.
uPleasanton would go from 59 minutes to 52 minutes.
ACE Forward would allow riders boarding in Turlock to reach Merced in 22 minutes, Modesto in 13 minutes, Lathrop/Manteca in 40 minutes, Stockton in 59 minutes, Pleasanton in one hour and 28 minutes, Great America/Levi Stadium in two hours and one minute, and San Jose in two hours and 20 minutes.

To contact Dennis Wyatt email