Stanislaus County, West Park official ask for rail bond money

Stanislaus County and PCCP West Park LLC formally asked the state for $26 million Thursday to build a short- haul railroad and inland port near Crows Landing.

The application for Trade Corridor Infrastructure Bonds is a key component of West Park's proposal to build a 4,800-acre business and industrial park on and around the county's Crows Landing Air Facility.

The short-haul rail project would link the Crows Landing facility with the Port of Oakland, creating an inland port at the air facility, a former naval air station owned by the county.

The rail link is expected to cost $57.48 million. The bond application requires at least a 50 percent match from local sources. Stanislaus County is pledging 170 acres of the air facility for the project, valued in the application at $12.5 million, and West Park is making up $18.98 million in cash.

The application is linked to a bond money application by the San Joaquin Council of Governments for $75 million to purchase rail right of way over the Altamont Pass from Union Pacific. The San Joaquin rail project would be used by Altamont Commuter Express passenger trains and freight service from Stockton to Fremont. The Stanislaus short- haul rail would use the Union Pacific tracks.

The California Transportation Commission will decide which projects get money from the nearly $3 billion in funds. Hearings are scheduled during the third week in April in Los Angeles, San Diego, Oakland and Fresno. The commission is expected to choose the projects April 10, based on a set of criteria the commission adopted.

The West Park proposal is controversial and has drawn opposition from the cities of Patterson and Newman, as well as other government agencies on the West Side. Residents object to the size of the project, the loss of farmland and the disruption the trains would cause coming through Patterson.

Local officials remain optimistic about the bond money, however.

"We really feel it's got a good chance," said Vince Harris, executive director of the Stanislaus Council of Governments. "We feel very good about the document. A lot of hard work went into it, by the agency staff and the developer."

D.J. Smith, transportation consultant for West Park, estimated there are 75 to 100 applications for the bond money, but he, too, expressed optimism.

"I like our chances. Our application will stand up to anybody's in terms of the analysis done. We are pretty proud of the way it came out."

Short-haul rail advantages touted

The application touts several advantages of the short-haul rail system, including relieving truck and commuter traffic over the Altamont, improving air quality, creating jobs and moving consumer goods and agricultural products more efficiently.

The application states that PCCP West Park LLC is a partnership between West Park Holdings LLC, owned by the Gerry N. and Karen L. Kamilos Family Trust; and PCCP West Park LB LLC, owned by Lehman Brothers investment firm and Pacific Coast Capital Partners, an investment banking firm based in San Francisco.

Bee staff writer Tim Moran can be reached at tmoran@modbee.com or 578-2349.

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