Bay Area riders catching California High Speed Rail to Los Angeles will initially ride ACE trains to Merced to make their connection.
The critical role the Altamont Corridor Express will initially play in the state’s high speed rail service is among the service upgrades and improved connectivity San Joaquin Rail Commission personnel will be sharing at a series of town hall meetings this month in Manteca, Lathrop, and Tracy.
Plans call for ACE to be extended to Merced within 5 to 10 years with stops in downtown Manteca, Ripon, Turlock, Livingston or Atwater, and Merced.
Merced is the initial northern terminus of the first section of high speed rail track. Ultimately high speed rail will head into the Bay Area via the Pacheco Pass and connect with CalTrains tracks to head up the Peninsula to San Francisco. That segment is expected to take significantly longer to complete. Even after the Pacheco Pass to San Francisco route is completed, ACE will continue to provide key connections to high speed rail for Alameda and Contra Costa counties as well as the Northern San Joaquin Valley.
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 clash 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, upgrade existing Union Pacific tracks between San Jose and Stockton to improve reliability and capacity, and will extend service to Merced.
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.
ACE Forward is also looking at adding a station at River Islands in Lathrop as well as downtown Tracy.
The overall ACE Forward project is $950 million. Of that $550 million is to extend service to Merced from the Lathrop/Manteca station.
More trains through
downtown parking issues
For Manteca, it would mean significant changes.
It would mean all 10 at-grade crossings in Manteca from Airport Way to Austin Road would be double tracked. Federal safety experts note double tracks create unique safety issues as people sometimes mistakenly believe just because a train going one direction has cleared that another one isn’t coming from the opposite direction.
It would also bring train service to the Moffat Boulevard train station. That could create issues with stopped traffic on South Main Street for trains loading and unloading. It also would mean you could take trains from Manteca to San Jose or the Los Angeles Basin. It also means significantly more trains passing through Manteca
Projections call for 120,000 annual riders to board in downtown Manteca by 2020 and nearly 280,000 by 2025. The 2025 numbers anticipates an average of 1,076 riders boarding on a typical workday in downtown Manteca. Since parking is limited at the station it would require significant number of people walking, bicycling, catching improved Manteca Transit buses or being dropped off at the station. The city could also possibly secure additional parking.
Regardless, it would pose a challenge to prevent commuters from parking on neighborhood streets, downtown streets, or downtown parking lots.
Manteca has no parking enforcement officer. They eliminated the last position 21 years ago.