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By Noel T. Braymer

The San Joaquin Valley Regional Valley Commission, Altamont Corridor Express, San Joaquin Joint Powers Authority, Valley Link, and the Tri-Valley-San Joaquin Valley Regional Rail Authority are working together to provide rapid and frequent rail passenger service between the Bay Area and the Northern San Joaquin Valley. Travel is already growing in this region as the  “Silicon Valley” job market continues to grow and available affordable housing is harder to find. With the efforts and excellent graphics prepared by the rail related organizations named above, I will be able to show what is being planned which is more effective than writing about it.

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The basic plan is to connect the Bay Area and San Joaquin Valley. This includes High Speed Rail between Bakersfield and Merced. New service between Merced and Sacramento. New service between Stockton and Redwood City by reopening the Dunbarton Bridge across San Francisco Bay. And Better BART Connections with Valley Link between ACE and Capitol Corridor Trains. This will use DMU or EMU trainsets on many miles of  available rail right of way in the Altamont Pass which have been out of service for many years,

 

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This shows both the projected cost of the needed track up grades and the planned travel times between major destinations.

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Valley Link -Northern California Megaregion Rail Connection to BART
“This important project will connect Northern San Joaquin County communities to the Tri-Valley and Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) through frequent and fast rail service via the route of the historic Transcontinental Railroad right-of-way though the Altamont Pass. This approximately 12-mile, abandoned right-of-way, deeded to Alameda County by Southern Pacific in 1984, provides an unprecedented opportunity to deliver a fast and efficient inter-regional rail service – connecting people, housing and jobs in the Northern California Megaregion and providing much-needed congestion relief in one of the Bay Areas most congested corridors.

Valley Link will extend initially from the planned ACE N Lathrop Station in the San Joaquin Valley through the Altamont Pass, then readily connect with the Dublin/Pleasanton BART terminus station in the Tri-Valley, with additional phase one stations in River Islands, Downtown Tracy, Mountain House, Greenville Rd/I-580 in Livermore, and Isabel Ave/I-580 in Livermore.  Additional potential infill stations include Ellis Historical in Tracy, Grant Line Rd in Alameda County west of Tracy, and South Front in Livermore. An initial analysis completed by the Altamont Corridor Express (ACE), found Valley Link to have competitive travel time (73 minutes from planned ACE N Lathrop Station to BART), significant emissions reduction, and significant environmental benefits. Initial travel demand forecasting shows approximately 25,000 riders per day on Valley Link in 2040.

In addition, Valley Link had a capital cost of under $400 million for the segment of the planned Mountain House Station to the planned Greenville Road Station in Livermore – the project segment not addressed in the BART environmental review and now proposed for immediate further environmental review. This segment includes an operations, maintenance, and storage facility in West Tracy near the Mountain House Station.

While the goal is to operate BART hours of operation and frequency, current plans for initial service levels on weekdays in the Tri-Valley will have trains operating every 12 minutes during peak hours to match BART service frequency.  In the off peak trains in the Tri-Valley will operate every 30 minutes.  From the San Joaquin Valley trains would operate on 24 minute service intervals during peak hours that will meet every other BART train.  In the off peak trains in San Joaquin Valley will operate on an hourly frequency.   Trains will operate from 5am to 8pm both weekdays and weekends. Peak hours will be 5am to 8am and 5pm to 8pm on weekdays. 

​This vital rail connection provides a highly economic way to close a significant passenger rail gap, but in addition, it will improve the overall mobility in this key freight movement corridor between the San Joaquin Valley and the Port of Oakland.”

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