By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Is another consultant blowing smoke while pocketing money from Manteca?
A train on a siding blocks the Industrial Park Drive crossing. It happens multiple times per day, ranging from 10 to 30 minutes. The greenhouse gas emissions idling trains generate don’t appear to be on the radar of the consultant hired to fashion strategies to reduce climate change for the City of Manteca.

The City of Manteca is cobbling together a climate action plan.

It is mandated by the state to establish a guideline for policies implementing greenhouse gas emission reduction goals dictated by Sacramento.

There is now a consultant going over various strategies with a citizens advisory group on how best Manteca can go about rolling back various pollutants that the state connects with climate change even as the city grows.

It encompasses everything from neighborhood design to increase walkability to encourage  people to eschew cars, putting infrastructure and parking policies in place to accelerate the transition to EVs and such to synchronizing traffic signals to reduce idling.

Idling tends to produce significantly more air pollution from internal combustion engines then when vehicles are moving.

That said, the consultants’ work sheets so far reflect a major hole in the Manteca climate action plan that you can drive a train through.

It’s because it is not considering what is arguably one of the biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions around  clock in Manteca.


There are upwards of 50 trains a day that pass through Manteca with more than a few that don’t pass per se.

The ones that don’t roll through Manteca non-stop, idle for up to 30 minutes at a time.

They more often than not block the Industrial Park Drive crossing and the Woodward Avenue crossing while sidelined to allow another train to pass.

As such, idling diesel engines are sitting within hundreds of feet of an older neighborhood and Manteca High.

And let’s not forget the massive Union Pacific intermodal facility nestled between Manteca and Lathrop now being expanded.

Train movements there involve a lot of idling in the process of loading and unloading containers and truck trailers moved by flatcars.

Studies by the California Air Resources Board and the University of Southern California indicate that train pollution impacts on people living near railroad tracks — and especially in areas where trains idle — include:

*shorter life spans.

*increased heart and lung diseases.

*more incidents of asthma.

*greater exposure to cancer.

Now to be clear, having lived and worked near railroad tracks — including the massive marshaling yard in Roseville now operated by Union Pacific Railroad — I personally do not see this as a major health issue.

That’s not to say it isn’t.

There are documented cases where railroads across the country leave engines idling for hours and sometimes even as long as three days for various reasons.

Manteca is not one of them.

I also would be remiss if I didn’t mention I live in the older Manteca neighborhood pointed out above, Powers Tract, in a home about 500 feet from where trains are often sidelined.

I’m not saying it’s a bunch of malarkey that the trains idling can be a serious health problem as the 50 or so organizations under the umbrella of the Moving Forward Network contend.

But in the overall scheme of things, is it?

Railroads are vital just like cars.

And just like deciding what type of cars should be on the road in terms of what powers them, how trains are powered is way above the pay grade of local officials.

That said, the state has very clear assumptions on where climate change is going.

And they have made it virtually California’s top priority to blunt, if not eliminate, manmade contributions to greenhouse gas emissions.

There are efforts being pursued to have diesel train engines use biodiesel fuels and such that reduce pollutants by 20 to 25 percent.

And there is research being done to have trains powered by massive rechargeable batteries and in other climate friendly ways.

However, that is also true with vehicles.

The real question is whether yet another well paid consultant the city had no choice but to hire to craft a climate action plan to satisfy a state mandate is sleep walking on the job.

Trains are a big part of the air quality and greenhouse gas emission picture in Manteca.

You couldn’t tell, however, from the game plan being outlined.

The worst part is there are policies the city could officially pursue that would reduce greenhouse gas emissions from trains in Manteca that have nothing to do with re-inventing train engine power sources.

The first is to build one or more under or over passes of railroad tracks.

This wouldn’t, in most cases, reduce greenhouse gas emissions from trains. But it would from countless vehicles idling throughout the day on major arterials waiting for trains to pass.

But let’s be honest.

Such a solution is outrageously expensive, would disrupt existing neighborhoods and commercial areas to implement, and could easily be negated with traffic tie ups way from the tracks.

The second involves a much lower cost and actually prevents the problem of idling trains in Manteca getting worse as rail traffic increases in the coming years while at the same time eliminating much of the existing train idling problem in the central part of the city.

That involves double tracking the railroads all the way through Manteca.

Ideally, it would be all the way along the Fresno main line deep into the San Joaquin Valley.

But since the goal is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in Manteca, the climate action plan for the city would only need to emphasize the need for double tracking to assure trains aren’t sidelined within the city limits near populated areas.

Currently, the San Joaquin Rail Commission is working towards double tracking the railroad line from the Lathrop Wye to a point just behind the planned ACE passenger platform across from Manteca High.

It ends without tying to the track siding.

Granted, the long range plan is to double track the corridor all the way to Merced.

Even so, such an eventuality should clearly be front and center in the city’s climate action plan.

And it should be a high and official lobbying priority for Manteca’s civic leaders.

Connecting the siding with the double tracking and extending the siding to Ripon so trains don’t block the Woodward Avenue and Industrial Park crossings needs to be a clear goal of the city’s climate action plan.

It would eliminate idling trains for the most part in Manteca and reduce idling by cars stuck behind crossings for 10 to 30 minutes.

Perhaps someone we elected or those at city hall should make sure the climate consultant does their job.

Not addressing the impact of trains on Manteca’s greenhouse gas emissions is more than a major oversight or incompetency on the part of the consultant.

It’s a joke.


This column is the opinion of editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinions of The Bulletin or 209 Multimedia. He can be reached at