By DENNIS WYATT
A century ago electric train service started between Modesto and Stockton allowing residents a chance to board in downtown Manteca to travel to those two cities and points in between via the Tidewater Southern Railway.
By 1916, there were 24 trains running a day. Eventually they declined to eight trains a day before they stopped running in 1932.
Passenger train service could return to downtown Manteca by the end of 2018.
That’s when Manteca commuters bound for the Bay Area may have two options to catch six different trains either at the new transit station being completed at South Main and Moffat or the existing Lathrop-Manteca on East Yosemite Avenue near the wastewater treatment plant. Ultimately, four trains may stop in downtown.
That’s based on an aggressive timetable to extend Altamont Commuter Express service into Modesto. The extension would add a downtown Manteca stop and a downtown Modesto stop to the commuter service that currently runs four daily commute trips in each direction between Stockton and San Jose. The Modesto train would also stop at the existing Lathrop-Manteca station.
Manteca City Councilman John Harris —who serves on the San Joaquin Regional Rail Commission — will provide a status report on the ACE project on Tuesday at 7 p.m. during a council meeting at the Manteca Civic Center, 1001 W. Center St.
ACE also is targeting extending service southward from Modesto to Merced by 2022 with a station also in downtown Turlock. That extension would provide a connection with the California High Speed Rail station that will be built in Merced as a stopping point between Los Angeles and the Bay Area via Pacheco Pass.
ACE wants to have 10 trains running in each direction by 2022.
ACE train service is eventually targeted to connect with Sacramento.
When that happens ACE would provide a commute corridor from Sacramento to San Jose as well as Merced to the Bay Area. The system is also designed to connect with California High Speed Rail trains in Merced and San Jose.
New trains would
travel at 125 mph
Existing ACE trains would be replaced with diesel multiple units.
The current ACE diesel locomotives can pull eight coaches max with the train length affecting acceleration and braking performance. The top seed is 70 mph.
The diesel multiple units can reach a top speed of between 110 and 125 mph since each train is self-propelled. Performance is not impacted by train length.
Meeting the 2018 deadline would require Stanislaus County voters to impose a county-wide transportation sales tax as San Joaquin County has through Measure K.
It would cost $161 million to extend ACE train service along the existing Union Pacific Railroad corridor through Manteca and into downtown Modesto as part of the first phase. The project includes 20.3 miles of track to essentially double track the corridor from Lathrop to downtown Modesto. The doubling tracking would cost $40.6 million for construction while the 250 acres of right-of-way required is expected to cost $50 million. Structures- such as bridges - would add another $30 million while a signal system would cost $40.6 million.
Double tracking is essential due to the heavy freight train movement on the UP line. Working on one track would make commute times longer as freight movements would slow down passenger service.
Moving forward at the same time is the $77 million capital improvement project to the Altamont Pass corridor. The project being funded in part with $38.5 million in Measure K sales tax receipts would initially shave 10 minutes each way off the current commute from Stockton to San Jose that averages an hour and 40 minutes one-way.
Additional improvements that are eligible for funding from the state high speed rail bonds - would further enhance the Altamont Pass crossing. Currently trains as slow as 25 mph at some points due to curving tracks. A straighter shot designed to accommodate high speed trains could get the running time between Stockton and San Jose down to 55 minutes. That would involve bridges as well as an expensive tunnel.
Should ACE eventually get high speed service as well, much of the track that would be put into place with the current extension plans could still be used. The most likely route for high speed trains through Manteca if that happens would be the middle of the 120 Bypass corridors before connecting with the UP corridor heading south.
Since the tracks are designed to be shared with the state system. Ultimately the most direct route to Sacramento from Los Angeles could be on high speed that would go through downtown Modesto, Manteca and Stockton to the state capital.