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Which ACE will get played?
Two Manteca locations in the running for high speed station
Possible locations for a future ACE high speed rail station location in Manteca are 1) west of the Big League Dreams sports complex and 2) in the middle of the 120 Bypass median at Main Street - photo by RYAN BALBUENA

There are now two candidates emerging for a Manteca station on the Altamont Commuter Express’ proposed high-speed rail.

One is in the middle of the Highway 120 Bypass at Main Street and the other is west of the Big League Dreams complex.

The location on the 120 Bypass would be similar to the BART station in Pleasanton that’s in the Interstate 580 median that is accessed via pedestrian walkways from a nearby parking structure. The only big difference is the high speed rail tracks would be elevated instead of BART’s tracks that simply run at ground level protected by concrete barriers.

The site is on the preferred corridor to Merced for future ACE service. It would follow the Union Pacific alignment that passes through population centers as opposed to the Santa Fe right-of-way that is farther east and away from urban areas.

Reeves said preliminary designs have found a way to avoid taking out any major structures in Manteca - specifically the Crossroads Grace Community Church and others - in order to create a curve in the tracks capable of handling high speed trains.

The site west of Big League Dreams would be part of an envisioned family entertainment zone that may include a 600-room Great Wolf Resort hotel complete with a 75,000-square-foot conference center. In a way, it would be the Northern San Joaquin Valley version of what is around the proposed ACE high speed rail stop in Santa Clara - Great America and the proposed $1 billion San Francisco 49ers stadium.

“There are a lot of transit connections at the current Santa Clara stop,” noted ACE spokesperson Thomas Reeves.

The station near Big League Dreams would serve a proposed route to take high speed rail up to Stockton and eventually to Sacramento.

Elected city leaders have voiced a preference in the past to placing the high speed rail on the existing UP corridor through Manteca in downtown where a transit station will break ground in the coming months.

Reeves noted the major drawback to that is fairly basic. In order to make it work and to acquire the right-of-way along the tracks for high speed rail, a significant number of homes would have to be obtained from eminent domain.

Reeves noted that Manteca leaders were concerned about creating a multiple transit hub in one location. Reeves said it would be fairly simple to put in place a shuttle service to run between the Moffat station and an ACE station on the 120 Bypass should that be built. It would be similar to the shuttle that connects current ACE riders from ACE’s Pleasanton station to reach the Pleasanton BART station. The shuttle is a 10-minute run.

The odds favor seeing traditional or heavy rail roll over the “high speed” alignment that is finally picked long before a high speed train does.

That’s because the tracks will accommodate either type of train. The electrical overhead system needed for the high sped trains can be added at a later time.

“In reality the high speed rail is probably something our children will ride,” Reeves said. “But in order to make that a reality we have to do the planning now.”

Manteca would be a hub where the state’s only two high speed rail systems - The California High Speed rail and ACE - would cross although there would not be a station serving the state system here. Instead, those would be in Modesto and Stockton.

The voter approved $10 billion high speed rail bond also included language that makes ACE a candidate to receive some of the money.