You may just be able to hop on an ACE train to San Jose from Downtown Manteca as early as 2020.
At a Manteca Chamber of Commerce coffee Wednesday morning at the Manteca Transit Center, Altamont Corridor Express CEO Stacy Mortensen told the dozens who gathered that while a hard-and-fast deadline for the track extension to Ceres is set for 2023, local officials believe that they could reach the new Manteca site much sooner.
And that extension – which would connect Merced with the already completed track section that runs from Stockton into Manteca and over to San Jose – could be a major asset in the coordinated effort by local municipalities to curb greenhouse gas emissions from commuters and drastically cut down on the amount of congestion on local highways during peak hours.
“This is something that’s very important to Manteca because it will get all of those people off of the highways and make access easier for people who are looking to get back and forth to their jobs in the Bay Area,” Manteca Mayor Steve DeBrum said. “When you also look at it and realize that it will help curb greenhouse gas emissions this is a total package that’s very important in multiple areas.”
But the new tracks – with proposed stations in Manteca, Modesto, Turlock and Merced and prospective stations in Downtown Tracy, River Islands, Ripon, Ceres and a relocated station in Lathrop – could also do something that until now the ACE Train has been incapable of doing.
Bringing people into the Central Valley.
With discussions about extensions into Sacramento also being considered as well as the possibility of extending ACE service to the High-Speed Rail terminal in Bakersfield that will connect with the LA Basin, Mortensen said that for the first time the possibility exists that the service – which operates under the auspices of the San Joaquin Regional Rail Commission – could import people rather than exporting people out of the valley and into Silicon Valley.
Funded partially by Senate Bill 132, which provides $400,000,000 to extend the ACE system to Ceres and Merced as well as system improvements including new stations like the one that’s coming to Manteca, the Merced extension is set to be completed by 2026 with the Ceres extension needing to be completed by 2023. Mortensen said that she believes that the Manteca segment could be completed much sooner.
And there are additional plans either being discussed or already in the works including:
uA pilot program that would launch weekend service to Union City from the Central Valley in addition to Central Valley trips that are already offered to near Levi’s Stadium during the NFL season for San Francisco 49ers home games.
uExtending the number of daily trains to six and eventually 10 trains making the trip daily to accommodate more riders expected to move into the Central Valley in the coming decades. According to DeBrum, in the next 35 years the number of people San Joaquin County is expected to grow from 700,000 to more than 1.6 million.
uA possible connection between the existing ACE station in the East Bay Area to the Bay Area Rapid Transit line that would allow for access to points further west and into San Francisco proper and other segments of the region not served by the ACE line.
The total cost of the extension to Merced and all of the supplemental additions, including the additional trains, is estimated at more than $1.2 billion. It will be funded by additional revenue generated by the State of California through a recently approved gas tax hike – the first since 1994.
California Assemblywoman Susan Talamantes Eggman, who represents Stockton, was on hand to address the crowd and talked about the valley caucus in the California legislature with whom she is aligned to ensure that the Central Valley doesn’t get passed over.
“I’ve always said that that were two Californias – Coastal California and Central California,” she said. “And we’re fighting to make sure that there is equality there and inland California gets the same opportunities as everybody else.”
According to Eggman – who also talked about her desire to bring a California State University campus, either a CSU or even a Cal Poly extension, to the area – interconnectivity through rail is critical to the vitality of a region that is home to so many families who commute in order to earn wages required to sustain a household.
DeBrum said that once the extension is in place, ridership numbers will indicate whether the new line will have an impact on the number of vehicles that travel through Manteca on a given day on high-traffic intersections like Highway 99 and the 120 Bypass – picking up riders from Modesto, Ceres, Turlock and Merced that either use rural access on routes like Highway 132 or freeway roads like the 120 Bypass to get to their jobs in the Bay Area.