Railway Board offers ACE service to Turlock and Merced County

Another extension of the Altamont Corridor Express – to Turlock and Merced County – received key approval on Friday.

The San Joaquin Regional Rail Commission has approved the final segment environmental report. This paves the way for detailed design and construction, which could run the first train by 2025.

ACE has offered weekday service between Stockton and San Jose since 1998, mainly transporting commuters to jobs in the Bay Area. Four trains depart west in the morning and return in the late afternoon and evening.

The commission previously approved a segment to the south that will add stations by 2023 in the city centers of Manteca, Ripon, Modesto and Ceres. Friday’s unanimous vote was for Turlock, Livingston and Merced stations.

ACE also approved a northern branch by 2023, with stations west of Lodi, Elk Grove, and four sites in the Sacramento area.

All of this is funded by $ 900.5 million in state grants that will also improve Amtrak service between Stockton and Sacramento. The money comes from fuel taxes imposed on drivers.

Business leaders and other executives approved the latest extension at Friday’s virtual meeting.

“We believe this will energize the local economy and create jobs in a way that is needed here,” said Micah Gallo, director of business affairs for the Atwater area company that makes Joseph Farms cheese. .

The commission is made up of elected officials from the counties of San Joaquin and Alameda. They worked with neighboring counties to provide an alternative to long journeys on highways 205 and 580 and other roads.

ACE already has stations in Stockton, on the Manteca / Lathrop border and in Tracy, Livermore, Pleasanton, Fremont, Santa Clara and San Jose.

The expansions will use Union Pacific Railroad lanes, with dual tracks added where needed to reduce conflict with freight trains. The route mainly parallels Route 99 from Ripon to Merced.

ACE and Amtrak could supply a Merced-Bakersfield segment of the high-speed train as early as 2029. This project continues to be the subject of criticism over cost overruns and whether the Bay Area and Los Angeles should get the fast trains first.

Details on the ACE segment which advanced on Friday:

  • The Turlock platform will cross North Golden State Boulevard from the Roger K. Fall Transit Center, the hub of buses serving the city. Parking spaces and pedestrian access will be included.
  • The Livingston platform will be located downtown at Main Street and Court Street, with parking and pedestrian access.
  • The Merced platform will be downtown at 15th and R streets, with parking and pedestrian access. This area will also have a stopover station for ACE trains and possibly a high-speed rail station.

The commission ruled against a station in downtown Atwater. At the request of the city, it could be reconsidered in the future.

Friday’s vote completed an environmental review launched in June 2020. The committee will now move on to detailed design, including tracks, stations and other features. The goal is four round trips per day by 2027.

Planners have a long-term vision to make ACE more than a commuter line. These trains would run frequently for much of the day and would be linked to other rail systems.

Amtrak upgrades are on the San Joaquin line, which primarily connects Bakersfield and Oakland and also has trains to Sacramento. Upcoming work will add two round trips to the capital, with stations shared with ACE.

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John Holland covers news about agriculture, transportation and general assignments. He has worked for The Modesto Bee since 2000 and previously worked for newspapers in Sonora and Visalia. He was born and raised in San Francisco and graduated in journalism from UC Berkeley.

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