The Bay Area Rapid Transit board voted against proceeding with a long awaited BART extension from Pleasanton to Isabel Avenue interchange along Interstate 580 on the west side of Livermore that would cost at least $1.8 billion.
That decision deferred to efforts by the newly created Tri-Valley-San Joaquin Valley Regional Rail Authority to construct a Northern California Megaregional connection between the Altamont Corridor Express and BART systems.
“This is a major game changer,” noted Manteca Councilwoman Debby Moorhead who serves on both the regional rail authority as well as the San Joaquin Rail Commission that oversees ACE.
Moorhead noted that the two major rail initiatives — the $400 million already committed in state gas tax funds to extend ACE to Ceres by 2023 that will also include stops in downtown Manteca, Ripon, and Modesto as well as the BART-ACE connection — will go a long way to addressing the extremely congested I-580 corridor. I-580 serves as the umbilical cord connecting San Jose — that is generating more jobs than housing — as well as job rich San Francisco to the Bay Area’s fastest growing affordable housing solution in the Northern San Joaquin Valley.
More than 80,000 vehicles — including 14,000 trucks — snake their way over the Altamont Pass weekdays.
The BART decision sends at least $135 million to the regional rail authority on July 1 to work toward connecting the Northern San Joaquin Valley to the Pleasanton BART station.
The endeavor will likely be eligible for another $400 million that’s also committed to the project through the Bay Area’s Measure BB.
Moorhead noted given the length of time it takes to move a BART extension forward as well as the cost and environmental hurdles, the switch means connecting to BART from San Joaquin County will happen quicker.
The rail authority is meeting in Tracy June 13 to review alternatives. The goal is to select a preferred alternative this summer so environmental work can start.
The ACE to BART connection is being based on a less expensive “heavy rail” system that relies on nimble diesel multiple unit or electric multiple unit (DMU/EMU) engines.
The potential phase one of the ACE to BART would run from the River Islands development in Lathrop to Tracy/Mountain House before traveling through the Altamont corridor and entering the I-580 median to meet with BART at Pleasanton. Additional phases could see the new train beginning in Stockton and traveling to the Lathrop/Manteca station — that could be relocated farther south to McKinley Avenue near the Daniels Street extension and a new 120 Bypass interchange — and then connecting with the initial phase.
Within Tracy the system will utilize Union Pacific Railroad right-of-way. The trains will travel through the Altamont Pass on the historic Transcontinental Railroad right-of-way that’s now owned by Alameda County. It would then connect to BART by traveling down the Interstate 580 median.
Beyond providing a much sought after commuter link by many who live in the 209 and work in areas served by BART between Dublin/Pleasanton and San Francisco, the BART to ACE link would also connect 500 miles of commuter and intercity rail lines with more than 130 stations in the Northern California metroplex.
It would ultimately be feasible to catch a train in Merced and — with connections that are station-to-station or very short shuttle runs — travel to downtown San Francisco, downtown San Jose, San Francisco International Airport, Stockton, Sacramento, Lawrence Livermore Lab, Levi’s Stadium, and the Oakland Coliseum among other destinations.
You could step on a train in downtown Manteca, Lathrop-Manteca, Ripon or River Islands to access that 500-mile network that includes 130 stations making mass transit a viable alternative to commute to jobs, travel to reach entertainment venues, shop, attend school, and other purposes.
Agencies involved with the Tri Valley-San Joaquin Valley Regional Rail Authority are the cities of Manteca, Lathrop, Stockton, Tracy, Livermore, Pleasanton, Dublin and San Ramon, the Town of Danville, Mountain House Community Services District, San Joaquin and Alameda counties, Livermore Amador Transit Authority, BART, and the San Joaquin Regional Rail Commission (ACE).