Effort under way to connect Valley

By Dennis Wyatt

Photo contributed
An electric commuter train or a diesel version such as this Bombardier could be the backbone of a BART to ACE rail connection that is in the preliminary assessment stages.


The growing importance of the Northern San Joaquin Valley as the housing option for workers needed to keep the Bay Area economy humming is underscored by efforts to launch a rail system to ultimately move commuters between Stockton directly to the BART station in Dublin.

One day commuters from the region could hop aboard a station at River Islands in Lathrop to cover the distance to the Dublin BART station by rail. The trip by vehicle today can take as long as 100 minutes. It would take significant pressure off the Altamont Pass/Interstate 580 corridor that has over 65,000 vehicles daily that is expected to grow by 60 percent over the next 20 years. That is on top of the 14,000 trucks per day that travel the corridor.

The project is in addition to efforts now underway to extend the Altamont Corridor Express service south to Ceres by 2023 and ultimately to Modesto using money the California Legislature set aside as part of the gas tax hike deal. The ACE extension will bring rail service to downtown Manteca, Ripon and Modesto as well as Ceres in the first phase. Ultimately ACE stops would be added in Turlock, Atwater and Merced.

Initial preliminary plans call for service to start from the Dublin/Pleasanton BART station to West Tracy, with stops at Isabel to the west of Livermore and Greenville Road in Livermore. The future extension currently calls for two more stops in Tracy — one at Coral Hollow and the other in downtown — as well as River Islands and Stockton.

The rail connection of BART and ACE — the purpose of the Tri-Valley-San Joaquin Regional Rail Authority created by Assembly Bill 758 — will feature either diesel or electric multiple unit technology.

Within Tracy the system will utilize Union Pacific Railroad right-of-way. The trains will travel through the Altamont Pass on the historic Transcontinental Railroad right-of-way that’s now owned by Alameda County. It would then connect to BART by traveling down the Interstate 580 median.

The initial service plan calls for trains to run every 30 minutes during peak commute hours. They would connect with every other BART train.

Potential ridership and costs are currently being explored.

Beyond providing a much sought after commuter link by many who live in the 209 and work in areas served by BART between Dublin/Pleasanton and San Francisco, the BART to ACE link would also connect 500 miles of commuter and intercity rail lines with more than 130 stations in the Northern California metroplex.

It would ultimately be feasible to catch a train in Merced and — with connections that are station-to-station or very short shuttle runs — travel to downtown San Francisco, downtown San Jose, San Francisco International Airport, Stockton, Sacramento, Lawrence Livermore Lab, Levi’s Stadium, and the Oakland Coliseum among other destinations.

A person could step on a train in downtown Manteca, Lathrop-Manteca, Ripon or River Islands to access that 500-mile network that includes 130 stations making mass transit a viable alternative to commute to jobs, travel to reach entertainment venues, shop, attend school, and other purposes.

Agencies involved with the Tri Valley-San Joaquin Valley Regional Rail Authority are the cities of Manteca, Lathrop, Stockton, Tracy, Livermore, Pleasanton, Dublin and San Ramon, the Town of Danville, Mountain House Community Services District, San Joaquin and Alameda counties, Livermore Amador Transit Authority, BART, and the San Joaquin Regional Rail Commission.