The San Joaquin Regional Rail Commission will receive a $400 million appropriation from legislation approved last week to increase the state’s gasoline tax.
State Sen. Anthony Cannella, R-Ceres, secured the funding for expanding Altamont Corridor Express passenger rail service into Stanislaus and Merced counties.
Dan Leavitt, manager of regional initiatives for the San Joaquin rail commission, said the money will pay for laying new track in the corridor between Lathrop and Modesto. It will also pay for new trains, stations, and access fees for ACE to use the Union Pacific line from Ceres to Merced.
Plans for the first extension, no later than 2023, include stations in Manteca, Ripon, Modesto and Ceres. By 2027, a second leg would include stations in Turlock, Livingston or Atwater, and Merced.
The rail commission has estimated a $1.2 billion cost for full expansion to 10 daily roundtrips in the Stanislaus and Merced corridor, Leavitt said. The ACE trains currently carry passengers in a corridor between Stockton and San Jose.
The money from the state transportation bill, called SB 1, can pay for improvements to launch the service between Lathrop and Merced, and also can help leverage additional funds for the full expansion to 10 daily roundtrips, Leavitt said. There are other state funds in the new transportation measure, plus cap-and-trade funds and other sources.
ACE generally covers 50 percent of operating costs with fares, Leavitt pointed out. Some of the funds from the half-cent Measure L sales tax in Stanislaus County and a new tax in Merced County can pay for operational subsidies for ACE.
The extension to Merced is designed to link the ACE service with California’s high-speed rail system. With an ACE station in Merced, passengers could someday exit a train and walk across the platform to board high-speed rail for a trip to the Bay Area (through Pacheco Pass) or to Southern California.
Negotiations over the transportation bill also secured $100 million for building Campus Parkway in Merced between UC Merced and Highway 99.
Assemblyman Adam Gray, D-Merced, said the project will complete a transportation loop to spur development of commercial businesses, distribution centers and manufacturing, and realize the economic potential of the UC campus.
The $52 billion transportation bill approved by the Legislature last week is mainly for repairing roads and highways in California.
Stanislaus County Public Works Director Matt Machado said the county expects to get more than $12 million a year for road maintenance. In a typical year, the county falls about $14 million short on necessary road repairs, and the money from SB 1 “will go a long way toward filling that gap,” Machado said.
The official said the county won’t see money from the 12-cent gasoline tax increase until 2018.
Machado noted that the Measure L half-cent sales tax – largely for road repairs – went into effect this month. The county will start receiving Measure L funds in August.
“When it goes into full effect, we will deliver some things that amaze people,” Machado said.
Ken Carlson: 209-578-2321, @KenCarlson16