Short-haul rail idea competes for $26M of as much as $3.06B in state grant money

In situations where grant money is being doled out, there are always more applications than there is money, said Vince Harris, executive director of the Stanislaus Council of Governments.

That's true of the state Trade Corridor Improvement Fund bonds. Applications for projects from all over the state total $4.18 billion, while the money available is $2.49 billion to $3.06 billion.

The grant money, administered by the California Transportation Commission, is listed as a range because the state anticipates that more money will be available from other resources such as federal funding, user fees and tolls.

The numbers are important to Stanislaus County because one of those applications is for $26 million to start a controversial short-haul rail system between the Crows Landing Air

Facility and the Port of Oakland.

The rail system is part of the PCCP West Park LLC proposal to build a 4,800-acre business and industrial park around the air facility, 4½ miles southeast of Patterson. Many West Side residents, along with several government agencies, including the city councils in Patterson and Newman, the West Stanislaus Fire District and Patterson Unified School District, oppose the project.

The opponents don't like the prospect of added trains through Patterson, loss of farmland and increased traffic in the area.

Proponents of West Park say it will help Central Valley farmers move goods through the port more efficiently, create 37,000 jobs and reduce air pollution and congestion in the Altamont Pass.

The county and West Park developers are putting up $31.48 million in matching contributions for the grant.

The county's share comes from a pledge of 170 acres of land along one of the runways at the air facility, valued at $12.50 million. The remaining $18.98 million would be a cash contribution from West Park.

The transportation commission divided the total money available into four state areas, so the key number for the West Park proposal is the funds available for the San Francisco Bay-Central Valley Corridor.

The amount of money identified by the commission for that corridor is $640 million to $840 million. Applications from the region total $1.134 billion. A little more than $1 billion of that money, including the West Park application, is on a list of 15 projects submitted by a coalition of Bay Area and valley agencies.

Five projects came in from the region in addition to the coalition recommendations. In other areas:

The Los Angeles and Inland Empire region submitted 54 projects totaling $2.285 billion.

The San Diego and border region submitted six projects totaling $654.89 million.

Four projects were submitted from other regions, totaling $106.63 million.

Harris commented that he had not studied the applications in detail, but said the fact that the applications and the bond money available are as close as they are is good news.

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

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