Manteca’s last train station was a combined passenger depot, freight stop, and mail bag pick-up.
The station built with wood was located on the northeast corner of the railroad’s crossing at Yosemite Avenue. It was torn down almost 50 years ago.
By this time next year, its replacement made from steel, brick, and glass is expected to be close to completion on the southeast corner of Moffat and Yosemite at the train tracks. It won’t initially serve as a passenger train stop. That may come in the future with the extension of the Altamont Commuter Express service to Modesto and Merced as either traditional heavy rail or possibly as a high speed train. In the meantime it will serve as a hub for Manteca Transit buses and San Joaquin Regional Transit District bus service. It could also one day accommodate a return of Greyhound service to the community. The transit station will also have something the original train station didn’t - meeting rooms complete with catering kitchen plus two outdoor plazas for public gatherings.
The City Council Tuesday unanimously gave RRM Design Group the green light to proceed with a traditional design for the station as opposed to a more modernistic design with a curvy roof.
The design is an effort to blend into the more traditional downtown buildings as well as to draw the Moffat Boulevard corridor and the central district together. The city has a long-range goal of upgrading Moffat as a small business park/retail corridor connecting with Spreckels Park and development planned further to the south such as Oak Valley Community Bank’s envisioned six-story office tower.
The addition of the meeting rooms and public plaza is an effort to stimulate more activity downtown. The rooms will be available for rent to the general public. The structure will also house administrative offices for the Manteca Transit system.
Council members indicated they’d like to see a clock tower added to the design of the station if financially feasible. Councilman Vince Hernandez suggested that a charging station for electric cars might be considered as well.
Should future rail service include a stop in Manteca, the project is being designed to allow the addition of a passenger platform.
The odds are nil that California High Speed Rail or Amtrak would ever stop in Manteca but the chances are good that ACE trains will use the station when service is extended to Modesto and Merced.
Council members John Harris and Steve DeBrum had reservations about the location as ACE was exploring sending its high speed rail down the center of the Highway 120 Bypass. But staff indicated they had been informed by the San Joaquin Rail Commission staff that the Federal Highway Administration wasn’t in favor of such a plan. That leaves the only alternative for ACE trains to reach Modesto - even if they ultimately head east to Escalon which would require extensive right-of-way acquisition - is along the Union Pacific corridor through Manteca.
Harris said that while he had his doubts California or ACE would ever see high speed trains, he believed that traditional commuter rail will keep expanding as a more cost effective alternative especially with gasoline approaching $5 a gallon.
The ACE station with the heaviest use currently is the Lathrop-Manteca stop just outside Manteca’s western city limits on Yosemite Avenue.
DeBrum - looking ahead - asked if there was another room for expansion should commuter rail service stop at the station down the road. City Manager Steve Pinkerton noted there is additional city land to the east along Moffat as well across the street. In any event, the city could build a parking structure if needed at some point.
The $7.3 million for the project consists of restricted transit related funds including $4.5 million in federal stimulus money, $1.8 million in state bond money and $1 million in Measure K transit taxes.
The 7,000-square-foot station will be accompanied by a 100-space parking lot on 3.1 acres. The plan also calls for allowing on-street parking along Moffat.
The site plan calls for a public plaza to the west and north of the actual transit station. There will be a separate entrance near Grant Street for dropping off passengers that includes a roundabout for turning around. Once past the roundabout commuters can access the parking lot. The same parking can be accessed from the eastern edge of the transit site.
Buses will enter directly across from Grant Street and then loop back to Lincoln Avenue. In between there will be space for five buses to load and unload.
Federal stimulus funds will be used to install a fiber optic cable to run from the proposed transit station to the Civic Center at a cost of $300,000.
The fiber optic cable will provide the backbone for park security cameras that are going in at Southside and Library parks as well as to connect with safety cameras that will be put in place at various bus stops along the city’s transit system for improved security at a cost of $133,400. The security cameras for bus stops as well as the ability to build 10 to 15 bus shelters complete with benches, trash receptacles, and improved signage at most Manteca Transit stops at a cost of $1,353,798 is also being funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.