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November 25, 2009 > The future of travel... the Altamont Corridor Rail Project

The future of travel... the Altamont Corridor Rail Project

Submitted By Dirk Lorenz

On the rare occasion I drive my car to and from the Santa Clara's ACE train station to help passengers, the thought has occurred to me while stuck in traffic on 237 at 880, "I wonder where the ACE train is now?" One day my curiosity got the best of me... and I decided to call a friend who commutes on the train to find out where they were... literally ... at that moment. "Speeding" down 880 at 35 miles per hour, passing the Stevenson exit, I was astounded to hear that the ACE train was leaving the Pleasanton Station. You see, the ACE train left the Santa Clara station at the same time I did, yet it was almost half way to its final destination in Stockton before I was able to exit 880 in Fremont!

Sounds pretty green if you ask me. Why would I ever want to drive my car when travel via ACE is so much faster? How could service get any better than this?

Well it can... if the California High Speed Rail Authority realizes its vision of improved passenger train service between the Bay Area, the Tri-Valley area, and northern San Joaquin Valley. Thanks to the Altamont Corridor partnership working group and California Voters who approved Proposition 1A which allowed the use of high-Speed Bond Funds for the Altamont Corridor project, the future of this mode of transportation will take a giant step forward.

The goal is to transform existing ACE service into a robust intercity and commuter service with frequent trains operating in both directions all day long! The vision calls for electric trains making the trip from the Stockton area to the San Jose area in half the time of the current ACE train service. Additionally, the project will accommodate a future connection to the proposed Dumbarton rail service and an intermodal connection to BART in the Fremont vicinity.

To achieve this goal, the project will need to develop a system of tracks fully separated from the Union Pacific Rail Road (UPRR). The ultimate alignment will be grade-separated, electrified, and fully compatible with high-speed train equipment. Near term improvements of the proposed project will be useable by the current ACE service.

Why would anyone be against such a giant leap forward in intercity transportation improvements that connects to existing transportation systems?

We know that ridership decreases exponentially each time a passenger experiences travel that would be faster in a car or must transfer to another train or mode of transportation to get to their final destination. Don't we want to create mass transit systems that are fast, clean, quiet and easy to use? A system that minimizes impacts to the environment by sharing existing infrastructure?

Potential environmental issues have been identified as those that impact the aesthetics and visual quality of the environment. This is one reason why Fremont leadership insisted on BART tunneling under Lake Elizabeth. There would be construction impacts, concern about biological resources and wetlands as well as land use and planning issues, to name a few.

The future of travel depends on YOU, as this project is in the public "scoping" stage. An Altamont Corridor Partnership Working group is doing outreach to our community and would love your input. A local scoping meeting was held November 17 but if you were unable to attend, you may still send comments by December 4 to the group. Information can be found at www.cahighspeedrail.ca.gov.

Personally, it can't happen soon enough for me and the thousands that could use ACE every day! Just think... I could be inching along on 880 at Stevenson someday soon and call one of my friends on the ACE train who would be somewhere between Tracy and Lathrop at that time!

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