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High speed trains down 120 Bypass?
Part of ACE alternatives to connect to Modesto
A rendering of what the proposed high speed ACE tracks using tunnels and bridges to attain speed up to 150 mph crossing the Altamont would look like. - photo by Image Contributed


• WHAT: Altamont Commuter Express High Speed Rail
• TOP SPEED: 150 mph plus vs. 79 mph today
• SCHEDULE: Hourly service all day long in both directions compared to the current four trains per day each way

Proposed high speed rail Altamont Commuter Express trains could zip along the Highway 120 Bypass median by 2020 to serve Modesto.

The sleek, modernistic trains would slash the current time it takes ACE to go from Stockton to San Jose from a little over two hours and 10 minutes down to 55 minutes. Based on exiting travel times, that means a trip from Lathrop/Manteca could take around 50 minutes.

The other possible San Jose to Modesto route for ACE would swing trains after they leave the Lathrop/Manteca station to the northeast so they can then head southward along the Union Pacific tracks that slice diagonally across Manteca’s neighborhoods from Airport Way to Spreckels Avenue.

That route, by the way, is one of two alternatives for the Sacramento to Merced California High Speed Rail line. The other two alternatives for the California line swings north along the Austin Road corridor once it reaches Manteca. The other would use the Santa Fe tracks that pass through Escalon.

Regardless of specific routes adopted both by the ACE and California high speed rail projects means Manteca will be assured of having not one but possibly two and even three high speed rail lines cutting through the city.

The third is one of two ACE routes that would be used to reach Stockton. One goes up along the tracks on the city’s edge that parallels Airport Way to the west and the other is on tracks that parallel Airport Way to the west.

Should the 120 Bypass route be picked, the easterly route to Stockton and either the Austin Road or Union Pacific track alternatives used for the California high speed routes are pursued, Manteca would then have three high speed rail lines cutting through the city. It would essentially make Manteca the crossroads of high speed rail in California.

Two possible routes to Modesto
That is just one part of the Altamont Railroad Corridor Project that was presented to the California High Speed Rail Authority last week.

There are two potential routes for reaching Modesto.

One would continue the tracks eastward toward Escalon roughly a mile south of East Highway 120 until it joins up with the Santa Fe Railroad right-of-way that is being considered as one alternative for the Merced to Sacramento leg of the California High Speed Rail Project.

The other would swing south just short of the 120 Bypass with Highway 99 and join up with the other California High Speed rail alternative route along the Union Pacific tracks that parallel Highway 99 through Ripon and Stockton.

Two high speed rail routes for the ACE project are being considered in the Lathrop/Manteca area. One is at the existing location on West Yosemite Avenue just inside the Lathrop city limits and the other is near Louise Avenue and the westerly UP tracks through Lathrop. Either option essentially kills a proposal by developers in Lathrop to build a transit center involving residential, commercial, and business park near McKinley Avenue just north of the Highway 120 Bypass by relocating the ACE station.

Among the 52-page scoping document prepared for the ACE high speed rail project were the following comments:

• The U.S. Department of Interior considered about potential impacts to Yosemite and Sequoia Kings Canyon national parks.

• The City of Milpitas is against an elevated structure along the Interstate 880 corridor due to concerns it would block business signage.

• The California Public Utilities Commission believes all at-grade tracks where a high speed train runs should be required to have fencing or another type of barrier.

• Union Pacific has made it clear it will not provide any segments of its system the proposed high speed rail project.

• The San Joaquin Rail Commission wants a station in the Manteca/Lathrop area.

The next step is to prepare a draft environmental impact report on the alternative that will be complete sometime in 2012. The final EIR adoption is targeted for 2013 for the ACE system.

High speed state trains could reach 220 mph
The California High Speed Rail Authority 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.

Voters in 2008 passed a $9.95 billion bond statewide that allows the funding for the next phase of work which is plotting exact routes. The goal is to formally certify by 2013 the environmental documents for the Merced to Sacramento line which includes a possible route through Manteca. The overall system – expected to cost $50 billion – could break ground in 2015 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.

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.

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