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High speed trains may zoom near Austin Road
The purple lines show the possible California high speed rail routes, the solid green line the current ACE line and the slashed green line shows the proposed ACE high speed route options. - photo by Map courtesy California High Speed Rail Authority

There’s a 66.6 percent chance that trains will “fly” through Manteca at speeds over 100 mph if the California High Speed Rail system is completely implemented.

The electric trains – capable of speeds up to 220 mph that would only be attained in “isolated” stretches such as between Merced and Bakersfield – could travel between Modesto and Stockton on three possible routes on an elevated structure. Two of those three routes cut through Manteca in a bid to make it possible to travel from Stockton to Los Angeles in one hour and 59 minutes with the system designed to ultimately handle a train every five minutes.

The run time between San Francisco and Los Angeles including stops is expected to take two hours and 38 minutes, between Sacramento and Los Angeles two hours and 17 minutes, and between Sacramento and Merced 43 minutes.

In addition the high speed Altamont Commuter Express train project moving forward in tandem with the state high speed rail would also send the sleek, modernistic trains through Manteca with two possible routes in a proposal to extend servcie to Modesto. Those trains, however, will operate at lower speeds as they will use grade level crossings as opposed to new tracks in the Altamont that will take travel from 10 mph to speeds close to 150 mph. The ACE trains would reduce the trip from a little over two hours and 10 minutes down to 55 minutes.

There is a possibility the ACE high speed service to Modesto could slash through Manteca east-to-west and parallel East Highway 120 Bypass toward Escalon. It will curve before reaching Escalon to connect upon with the Santa Fe by forging a new line to Modesto. Extending the service to Modesto makes it probable that a new ACE stop will take place at the transit center moving forward at Moffat and South Main in downtown Manteca.

The two Manteca routes for California High Speed Rail includes following the Union Pacific railroad corridor which means elevated tracks would run through the heart of Manteca. The other route – although not exactly defined – would be in an area along the Austin Road corridor and rejoin the Union Pacific tracks heading south at a point near the Austin Road interchange.

The third route would follow the Santa Fe Railroad line and run through Escalon and Riverbank to a station on the east side of Modesto. That route – as well as the Austin Road corridor option – would require a station to the east of Stockton, The Union Pacific Railroad route would have the station built across from the Altamont Commuter Express station to provide an interconnect with the ACE system.

If the Stockton station is built farther to the east, the San Joaquin County Rail Commission is considering putting in a tram system to connect the two stations.

The environmental study for both the ACE and state high speed rail are now in the process of being done. Noise isn’t expected to be a major issue although consultants have indicated there are some concerns with vibration in the immediate vicinity of the tracks.

Consultants have indicated they are not far enough along to address specific issues as they are now gathering input. Once a preferred route is selected, the environmental examination will become much more intense.

Voters in 2008 passed a $9.95 billion state bond that allows the funding for the next phase of work which is plotting exact routes. The goal is to formally certify the environmental documents for the Merced to Sacramento line which includes a possible route through Manteca by 2013. The overall system – expected to cost $50 billion – could break ground in 20011 on the initial segment between Los Angeles and San Francisco via the Pacheco Pass. The other legs – Los Angeles to San Diego and Merced to Sacramento – would move forward in future phases.

The project got a boost last month with a $2.25 billion infusion of federal funds from the American Recovery & Reinvestment Act.

Train stations would be limited along the route and would be located in major metro areas or critical locations such as Stockton, Sacramento, Modesto, Merced, Bakersfield, Fresno, and Los Angeles.