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Push is on for ACE to BART train
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If Veronica Vargas has her way, the proposed Altamont Corridor Express expansion spaces in places like Mountain House, Downtown Tracy, River Islands and North Lathrop will be shovel-ready by the summer of 2019.
The City of Tracy’s Mayor Pro Tempore admitted that her timetable was a little bit optimistic given the speed at which the wheels of government turn – especially on transportation projects – but at an informational session Monday night hosted by the Tri Valley and San Joaquin Regional Rail Authority at Lathrop City Hall, Vargas outlined the pressing need to enhance the existing rail options for Northern San Joaquin Valley residents that are expected to face a potentially unprecedented growth explosion over the course of the next two decades.
“People will look at this and think, ‘This is something that’ll happen over the course of the next 10 or 20 years,’” Vargas said when answering questions about the much-discussed proposal that would essentially connect ACE trains to the existing Bay Area Rapid Transit network, making the commute easier. “But the fact is that we don’t have 10 or 20 years to wait for this – Caltrans is estimating that there will be a 300 percent increase during that time frame of just semi-trucks on these roadways.
“We just simply don’t have 10 or 20 years to wait for this to happen.”
The megaregion connection to the Tri-Valley BART extension – which is currently under review and could extend the existing eastern BART line down to Isabel Avenue or Greenville Road in Livermore – would allow Valley-based ACE riders to essentially transfer at a station onto a BART train without using the existing bus network.
At the center of the proposal is an abandoned 12-mile railroad right-of-way that was deeded to Alameda County that would allow for an additional line to run from West Tracy through to Greenville Road – doubling the number of trips that can be taken from the Valley into the Bay Area on a given basis. Proposals being considered would have station stops during the day with every 30-minutes to accommodate what is believed to be a massive increase in users with the expected population booms coming for places like Mountain House, Tracy, Lathrop and Manteca. Those 30-minute trips would meet every other BART train departing from the new eastern terminus of the Bay Area’s most heavily-used public transit system.
The $400 million cost to construct the new line could be paid for in part through Proposition 1A as well as other state and federal transportation funds. Those who attended Monday’s informational session were encouraged to contact not only their local elected representatives to advocate on behalf of the project, but also their regional, statewide and federal officeholders to let them know how important the project is to eliminating congestion on California’s already crowded roadways and cutting down on vehicle emissions.
“We all look at the gridlock and the difficulty of traveling with a single mode of transportation on the highway system,” San Joaquin County Supervisor Tom Patti said. “We need to diversify our transportation much like is in existence on the East Coast.
“This is the type of rail system that the Governor should have championed all along – focus on the high-density routing that is under the greatest amount of stress and use that rather than a long distance remote area that is only traveled by a few hundred people per day.”
Patti, who thanked Vargas for her presentation and urged those in attendance to follow her suggestions, said that California’s priorities should be on making sure that the greatest number of people can move in the most efficient way possible in order to maintain the economic force established in the Bay Area, and spreading east towards the very places where a large swath of the employment base for that economic engine lives.
San Joaquin County, which has long supported the ACE effort and has been a major proponent of regional transportation projects to improve circulation and efficiency, will likely play an important role in meeting nearby Alameda County halfway when it comes to extending the secondary line that would create a spur that would, in some iterations, run through Mountain House and Downtown Tracy as well as River Islands, which will be home to more than 11,000 homes once fully built out. 
“A bullet train from Northern California down to Bakersfield – who is going to use it?” Patti asked rhetorically. “But if we know we have a hundred thousand cars every day traveling east or west to where the jobs are, then connecting these networks and regions of travel would be vital to our future.”
To contact reporter Jason Campbell email or call 209.249.3544.