Altamont Corridor Express trains could be stopping in downtown Manteca as well as downtown Ripon within five years if Stanislaus County voters approve their own version of San Joaquin County’s half cent Measure K transportation sales tax during the next election cycle.
The transportation tax measure has failed three times. It is pivotal to extending ACE service from San Jose through Manteca then into Ripon as well as downtown Modesto and eventually downtown Turlock.
Union Pacific Railroad has tentatively agreed for ACE to use its corridor between Lathrop and ultimately Merced providing ACE pays to double track the line.
The extension of ACE service south into the Northern San Joaquin Valley is in addition to improving the corridor between Lathrop and San Jose to significantly reduce travel time plus expand the current four trains to six daily round trips by 2018 and 10 daily round-trips by 2022. That is in addition to extension service that could reach Merced and tie in with the California High Speed Rail line as early as 2022.
Existing ACE trains would be replaced with diesel multiple units.
The current ACE diesel locomotives can pull eight coaches max with the train length affecting acceleration and braking performance. The top seed is 70 mph but over the Altamont Pass due to the extensive curves trains slow to 25 mph.
The diesel multiple units can reach a top speed of between 110 and 125 mph since each train is self-propelled. Performance is not impacted by train length.
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Extending service to Modesto would cost $161M
It would cost $161 million to extend ACE train service along the existing Union Pacific Railroad corridor through Manteca and into downtown Modesto as part of the first phase. The project includes 20.3 miles of track to essentially double track the corridor from Lathrop to downtown Modesto. The doubling tracking would cost $40.6 million for construction while the 250 acres of right-of-way required is expected to cost $50 million. Structures — such as bridges — would add another $30 million while a signal system would cost $40.6 million.
Double tracking is essential due to the heavy freight train movement on the UP line. Working on one track would make commute times longer as freight movements would slow down passenger service.
Moving forward at the same time is the $77 million capital improvement project to the Altamont Pass corridor. The project is being funded in part with $38.5 million in Measure K sales tax receipts collected in San Joaquin County that would initially shave 10 minutes each way off the current commute from Stockton to San Jose that averages an hour and 40 minutes one-way.
Additional improvements that are eligible for funding from the state high speed rail bonds would further enhance the Altamont Pass crossing. Currently trains as slow as 25 mph at some points due to curving tracks. A straighter shot designed to accommodate high speed trains could get the running time between Stockton and San Jose down to 55 minutes. That would involve bridges as well as an expensive tunnel.
ACE is also mulling a realignment of the current line between the “Y” at Lathrop and Tracy to allow for additional train stations at River Islands where 10,800 homes will be built as well a second Tracy stop in that city’s downtown.
The Lathrop-Manteca station is currently the heaviest boarding station heading to San Jose. A number of the riders drive in from the Gold Country as well as Stanislaus County.
Former Riverbank Mayor Jennifer Mandueno who has been retained by ACE to speak to various organizations about the commuter service plans noted extending ACE south would reduce freeway congestion in Stanislaus County as well as battle greenhouse gas emissions.