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Obama bucks paying for environment study for transit station
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A transit station in downtown Manteca that could one day serve high speed trains running to San Jose is having its environmental study funded by President Obama’s economic stimulus package.

The Manteca City Council tonight is expected to award a $67,436 contract to Rincon Consultants to conduct the study for the project on the southeast corner of Moffat Boulevard and South Main Street. The preliminary engineering and design of the station will take place at the same time.

The station will serve as a transit hub for Manteca. That includes the current Manteca Transit and San Joaquin Regional Transit Service and possibly – in the future – inner-city service like Greyhound Bus and Altamont Commuter Express high speed rail.

The high speed rail is a possibility if ACE moves forward with its efforts to trim the travel time from Stockton to San Jose from a little over two hours and 10 minutes to 55 minutes. ACE is now working toward that goal in tandem with the California High Speed Rail project that could send trains through Manteca, east of Manteca around Austin Road or through Escalon on a Sacramento to Los Angeles route.

Unlike the state system, the ACE high rail won’t require grade separations as speeds will be close to what they are now by upgrading tracks along the existing Union Pacific line it uses on both sides of the Altamont Pass. By upgrading tracks high speed trains could move between Tracy and Livermore across the Altamont Pass where currently trains sometimes move as slow as 10 mph at speeds close to 150 mph which is where all of the time savings would occur.

The prospect of losing $1.1 million in Measure K regional gas sales tax funding prompted the City Council last year to move forward with an action plan to start building the transit station in phases.

The city acquired the land needed for the transit station’s parking lot – the old Union Ice Co. - on the southeast corner of Moffat Boulevard and South Main Street for parking. The actual transit station is proposed for land that was bought as part of the original Tidewater Railroad property immediately to the southeast near where South Grant Street T-intersects into Moffat. Plans currently do not call for a train platform as the Altamont Commuter Express service is not expected to be extended southward into Merced County for at least five to 10 years.

The transit station would also have a ticket sales office for the local transit services plus hopefully Greyhound and ACE trains in the future.

The overall project is expected to cost $3.9 million. In 2004, the San Joaquin County Council of Governments earmarked an additional $1.1 million to the project to bring its commitment up to $2.2 million. At the time, revenues were coming in stronger than expected from the countywide half cent sales tax. Now the sales fund is experiencing a shortfall prompting COG to reconsider its commitments.

Originally, the transit station was envisioned to go behind the 100 and 200 blocks of West Yosemite. The city then was mulling the site of the old lumber yard and even came up with architectural plans for a station with a clock tower. While they were taking their time on the advice of county personnel who believed toxic issues would make the site not commercially viable for private sector investment, Don’s Mobile Glass bought the building and ended up spending just around $20,000 for toxic clean-up.

The preliminary plans for the site the council finally acquired reflects the design of the early 1900s Southern Pacific train station that once served Manteca.

Manteca is receiving more than $5.6 million in American Recovery Act funding from the federal government including funds to move the transit station forward.