Modesto’s downtown train depot will get makeover to welcome ACE. Ceres has plans, too

Transportation leaders got a glimpse Wednesday of the Modesto and Ceres stations planned for the Altamont Corridor Express.

The dingy old depot in downtown Modesto will get a $5 million makeover in advance of service starting as early as 2021.

Ceres is going with something more bare-bones — a new platform on the west side of Highway 99, reached by a pair of walkways from downtown.

The Stanislaus Council of Governments got an update on both plans at its monthly meeting. StanCOG oversees transportation planning for the county and its nine cities.

ACE has run since 1998 between Stockton and San Jose, serving many commuters who can’t afford Bay Area homes. It has stops on the way at the Manteca/Lathrop border and in Tracy, Livermore, Pleasanton, Fremont and Santa Clara.

Four trains run west each weekday morning and return in the late afternoon and evening. Two Saturday trains started running Sept. 7.

ACE has about $900 million in state funding to build branches north and south from the Stockton area. The northern extension will have stations at Lodi, Elk Grove, Sacramento City College, Midtown, Old North Sacramento and Natomas. It could have one train in 2021 or 2022 and four by 2024.

The southern branch will have a first phase with stations in downtown Manteca, Ripon, Modesto and Ceres. This route could have a single train in 2021 or 2022 and four by 2024. The second phase will put stations in Turlock, Livingston or Atwater, and Merced, with one train in 2023 or 2024 and four by 2027.

Modesto details

ACE’s Modesto stop will be at the depot erected in 1915 by the Southern Pacific Railroad. It had passenger service until 1971. The track there is now part of the busy freight network of the Union Pacific Railroad.

SP designed the station in the Mission Revival style, with a tile roof, cupolas and other touches. It had a bit of the grandeur that came with being the dominant mode of intercity travel a century ago.

The building is now part of the Modesto Transportation Center, built in 1993 to serve city, county and Greyhound buses.

The rehab will include removing some of the interior walls to create a more open feeling in the waiting room. The paint inside and out will be lighter than what’s there now. New heating, cooling and restrooms will be installed.

“It’s in dire need of some TLC,” said Adam Barth, transit manager for the city, during a Friday tour for The Modesto Bee.

ACE will build a siding next to the UP track. Riders will walk across a newly paved area to reach the trains.

The project also includes improved lighting and security cameras at the Transportation Center. Much of ACE service now is in the predawn hours, but it has long-term plans for non-commuter hours.

The city is fixing up the depot with about $1 million in federal rail money and $4 million from its share of a state sales tax.

Design is expected to take until the end of 2019. Barth said it includes a federal review to ensure the changes do not spoil the historical character of the station.

Local permitting and contractor bids will follow. Construction could start in August 2020 and take about a year, Barth said.

Ceres details

The Ceres plan is more practical than grand. The city does not have an existing station, and the ACE route is separated from downtown by an elevated stretch of Highway 99.

Ceres will designate parking spaces for ACE riders on El Camino Avenue, a frontage road along 99. Lighted walkways will be created at two freeway ramps that go under the roadway. ACE will build a rail siding and platform for the trains.

The city’s safety improvements are expected to cost about $500,000, City Manager Toby Wells said by email Thursday. The City Council could award the project in October, and construction could start in winter.

Ripon, Manteca

Two of the new stations in the first phase of ACE’s southern branch will be in San Joaquin County.

In Ripon, ACE will have a station just south of where Main Street crosses the UP tracks and Highway 99. This is at the east end of downtown.

The downtown Manteca platform will be added to the city Transit Center, at Moffat Boulevard and South Main Street. This is on a freight rail corridor. It will be about 2.5 miles east of the current Manteca/Lathrop stop.

John Holland covers breaking news and has been with The Modesto Bee since 2000. He has covered agriculture for the Bee and at newspapers in Sonora and Visalia. He was born and raised in San Francisco and has a journalism degree from UC Berkeley.