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High speed future for Manteca?
City could end up with two high speed lines
A rendering of what a high speed ACE train could look like going through the Altamont Pass. - photo by Photo Contributed

It’s a big decision with major quality of life implications for Manteca that could be coming down the tracks.

Yet it barely registers a peep at City Hall.

That’s because virtually every elected leader in Manteca is either against high speed rail - at least the north-south route - or they have serious doubts it’ll ever get off the ground even though the California High Speed Rail Authority is moving toward a 2013 groundbreaking for the first segment.

But if it does move forward Manteca could end up as the only California city at the crossroads of two separate high speed rail systems - the state’s north-south line and an Altamont Commuter Express line.

There are three possible routes from Merced north to Sacramento that have been identified with two of them running through Manteca. In the recently revised high speed rail plan, there is no timetable for the Merced-Sacramento route that is considered part of the second phase. The last part of the first phase of work is expected to be wrapped up by 2030.

One route is just to the east of Austin Road while the other is along the Union Pacific right-of-way that passes through Manteca. The Austin Road route would require a station to be built a number of miles east of Stockton while the UP alignment would allow a downtown Stockton station. The third route is along the Santa Fe Railroad corridor through Escalon.

None of the north-south trains would stop in Manteca. The closest stops would be Stockton and Modesto.

Two lines of a potential high speed ACE system could also go through Manteca.

The ACE project has been moving forward with scant attention given the controversy around the north-south line. The ACE corridor is eligible for part of the $10 billion in bonds that voters approved.

Three possible ACE routes into Stockton are being reviewed including one along Interstate 5 corridor, another along the existing route that runs along the border of Manteca and Lathrop and the other midway between the two routes. A second line would possibly run down the median of the 120 Bypass and curve either south toward Ripon and Modesto or head to the southern edge of Escalon and curve south to Modesto. That line envisions a station in Manteca somewhere along the 120 Bypass corridors.

The ACE station on the Stockton line could still stay on the border of Lathrop and Manteca while the other possible alignments put a station on Louise Avenue in Lathrop or at Lathrop Road near Interstate 5.

The key comment of the ACE plan is obtaining its own track corridor over the Altamont Pass and straightening it out.

The commute is now about two hours and 10 minutes from Lathrop/Manteca to San Jose on ACE. It is a time comparable with driving at the worst part of the commute.

New tracks across the Altamont Pass will allow speeds up to 150 miles per hour compared to conventional trains that move at times as slow as 10 mph on the windy route that also deals with freight traffic.

The faster speed possible over the Altamont would reduce the time to 55 minutes even with running at much slower speeds than 150 mph through the populated areas on both sides of the Altamont Pass.

And even if high speed train sets aren’t acquired for ACE, having its own tracks that don’t curve across the Altamont would still reduce commute time significantly.

 In addition the ACE route is being designed to tie into the California High Speed Rail corridors being developed both on the San Francisco Peninsula and through the Central Valley. That would allow even more commuters - essentially from San Jose to Sacramento - to ride a train.

The Manteca council has not taken an official position on alignments for either the future ACE or north-south high speed rail lines.