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Proojected cost of ultimate ‘trench’ solution to reduce railroad noise, traffic backups at 10 crossings; trains will triple thru Manteca to average of one every 24 minutes
train trench

Manteca has been put on notice.

Expansion plans for the Union Pacific Railroad intermodal truck-to-train facility sandwiched between Manteca and Lathrop will increase container truck traffic by 83 percent at completion.

Manteca has 14 crossings within the city limits that will be impacted by the increased intermodal movement — three on the Oakland line that also is used for Altamont Corridor Express commuter trains and 11 on the Fresno line. One of those 11 crossings — Austin Road — will be replaced with an overcrossing in the first phase of the Highway 99/120 Bypass interchange upgrade project breaking ground in 2022.

Union Pacific expects the Oakland line — that impacts the Louise Avenue, Yosemite Avenue, and McKinley Avenue crossings — to see train movements go from 32 today to 75 for a 120 percent increase that also includes ACE trains going from 8 to 10 a day.

The biggest impact, however, is on the Fresno line that slices Manteca in half. The current daily train census will triple going from 20 trains a day to 60 including six ACE trains. That is the equivalent of a train on average every 24 minutes as opposed to the current average of once every hour and 12 minutes.

Train noise and traffic backups caused by trains — especially those that use a siding for periods of 20 to 30 minutes blocking the Industrial Park Drive and Woodward Avenue crossings while waiting for another train to pass in the opposition direction — is already a hot button issue for many in Manteca.

Then there is the issue of truck trips. Currently there are 270,000 truck movements in a given year out of the intermodal facility all of which are supposed to use Roth Road to access Interstate 5. The number of truck movements will ultimately peak at 800,000 annually creating a challenge for the city to make sure trucks stay on designated truck routes.

The City Council Tuesday when they meet at 7 p.m. at the Civic Chambers, 1001 W. Center St., will explore possible options to address current and future concerns related to vehicle movements and railroad crossings as well as the reducing the community’s exposure to derailments.

The last derailment was in July 2019 when a 114-car Union Pacific freight train came off the tracks, starting a fire and blocked vehicle access from Austin to Moffat Boulevard. Fourteen cars were derailed.

In 1989 a train hauling explosives and hazardous materials through downtown hit a broken section of rail that sent 498 cars of the 82-car train of off the tracks. More than 200 people were evacuated from a nine block area. The cleanup took two days.

There are essentially two solutions to enhancing safety, reducing traffic congestions and reducing noise — building over or under crossings at some locations and simply closing other crossings or building an open trench as was done for 1.75 miles through downtown Reno in 2002 and 10.75 miles in the Long Beach area in 1987.

The cost of an overcrossing on Airport Way in 2016 was pegged at $22.6 million. If Manteca opted to build 10 underpasses or bridges at 10 spots where streets cross the tracks and close the other locations the price tag could easily exceed $250 million.


An open trend is most

expensive option with likely

 price tag in excess of $1.28 billion

Reno’s project that was started in 1997 and finished in 2002 included a 1.75-mile trench 54 feet wide and 33 feet deep. It cost $280 million to build.

Of that $111 million was from a local bond secured by the gambling and tourist mecca’s extremely robust hotel room tax revenues.

To trench tracks to accommodate all crossing on the Fresno line through Manteca from Airport Way to Woodward Avenue would require a six-mile long project. The Austin Road crossing ultimately will be replaced with a bridge as part of the Caltrans process.

General inflation has eroded the purchasing power of the dollar by 39.68 percent since 2002. Construction inflation almost always is higher than the general inflation rate.

The per mile cost of the Reno project in 2002 was $160 million. Just accounting for general inflation and not factoring in environmental costs unique to California or addressing higher costs that may be triggered by Manteca’s sandy loam soil, a trench through Manteca is likely to cost $1.28 billion plus.

Tuesday’s presentation is designed as an overview of the situation.

The council could opt to travel to Reno to further explore the trench option.

At the very least, council members have expressed a desire to take a pro-active approach to railroad issues which means they could take steps to make exploring options regarding train movements and how they relate to safety, traffic and the quality of life a higher priority for the city.


To contact Dennis Wyatt, email