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High speed rail to San Jose can change Manteca
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Think about it: Manteca to San Jose in 50 minutes on a commute day.

Being able to zip from the Northern San Joaquin Valley to the heart of the job-rich Silicon Valley in less than the two hours it now takes isn’t a fantasy. It is on the horizon as the Altamont Commuter Express quietly moves forward with plans for its own high speed rail line.

The Altamont Pass corridor is eligible for funding under voter approved ballot language in the $10 billion high speed rail bond measure passed in 2008. It is highly conceivable thanks to $4 billion in federal stimulus money going to the California high speed rail project that must be committed to a specific segment of that project in the coming few years that there will be more than ample money to finance the Stockton-to-San Jose ACE high speed rail route plus a spur into Modesto.

The economic impacts on the San Jose-Stockton line will grow even after the construction ends.

Ticket prices haven’t been set yet but the odds are they will compete favorably with a commute by car. That said, high speed rail could usher into existence a new generation of commuters who could significantly transform areas around stations including downtown Stockton, a new station proposed in Lathrop’s sphere of influence just northwest of the Highway 120 Bypass overcrossing of McKinley Avenue and in downtown Manteca.

Stockton, Lathrop, and Manteca will be given the unique opportunity to create transit hubs with residential, shopping and employment opportunities. But even more important for Lathrop and Manteca would be a potential reverse commute for key employees. This region could become as big for back office operations as it is becoming for distribution.

The 120 Bypass corridor is already being envisioned for a number of office towers aimed at corporations seeking regional offices or to relocate “back offices” that are essentially sales and other data collection operations that employ a good number of people. Among the approved projects on hold due to the economy are a series of three five-story office buildings planned for Yosemite Square on the northeast corner of the 120 Bypass and Highway 99 interchange and the Oak Valley Bank tower on the other side of the same interchange. It could also revive Poag & McEwen’s earlier proposal that has gone to the wayside for a five story hotel and a 10-story office building on land east of Bass Pro Shops.

Lathrop’s entry into the “back office” sweepstakes is the River Islands at Lathrop Business Park conveniently located at the western end of the 120 Bypass corridor.

The high speed rail would mean key people in companies could still live in the Bay Area and take relatively effortless commutes to jobs along the 120 corridor. Those companies then could tap into the Northern San Joaquin Valley labor force to reduce payroll costs. They’d also have the advantage of being able to build or lease office space at rates significantly below that of the Bay Area.

And Manteca-Lathrop offers corporations the same thing it does for distribution operations - an almost ideal base. Not only are San Jose, San Francisco, and Sacramento all within 60 miles of the 120 Bypass corridors with Fresno being 90 miles, but there are also 17 million consumers within a 100-mile radius.

It also gives Manteca an unparalleled redevelopment opportunity that could transform Central Manteca into a bustling neighborhood where people live, shop, and are entertained especially in the triangle formed by Main Street, Yosemite Avenue and Garfield Avenue. It wouldn’t happen overnight but the RDA working with the private sector could cobble together parcels large enough to create a full-blown transit village. It would provide a neighborhood where residents could walk to hop on a train that would zip them to San Jose to work or play in 50 minutes or - with a transfer and switch to BART - be in San Francisco in an hour. And it could all be done without driving.

High speed rail from Manteca to San Jose is an economic game changer.