Bringing Bay Area-bound passenger rail to Modesto, Turlock and Merced could boost the regional economy by at least $1.14 billion in the next 15 years, an analysis says.
Leaders hope to extend the Altamont Corridor Express to Modesto as soon as 2020 and to Merced by 2025, with Turlock somewhere in between. That would make life easier, they say, for hundreds of Valley commuters who catch trains in Lathrop and Stockton heading to the East Bay and Silicon Valley.
Rail officials on Friday at a meeting in Stockton will review the study, commissioned by the Modesto-based Great Valley Center and conducted by Time Structures Inc., a consulting firm whose client list includes the California Legislature.
The firm assumes that local governments in what’s called ACE Forward will invest $228 million, representing 25 percent of construction and equipment costs. The extension would run within the Union Pacific freight corridor, which generally follows Highway 99. Eventually, new stations would be built in Ripon, Manteca, Tracy, and Atwater or Livingston.
Time Structures found that current commuters save a combined $12 million each year by not driving. Passenger surveys say 37 percent work while on the train, and the firm quantified that benefit at an additional $12.6 million.
The study then priced the value of pollution avoided by not driving at $206,000 per year and came up with an estimate for all operational benefits of a Modesto-Merced branch through 2029 at $578 million.
Time Structures added that subtotal to $565 million, representing added income from 5,716 construction jobs and equipment sales, to come up with the total estimate for regional benefits at $1.14 billion. After 2029, the area would gain about $100 million per year from ACE Forward, the study says.
The analysis does not include other benefits that are harder to quantify, although Time Structures ventured a guess:
▪ $19 million per year for drivers whose commutes could be reduced 10 minutes (five each way) because of less competition on freeways
▪ $3 million per year in increased income for businesses
▪ Tens of millions of dollars in higher property values for homes and businesses within a half-mile of new rail stations
Friday’s meeting of the San Joaquin Regional Rail Commission starts at 8 a.m. in the south meeting hall at Robert J. Cabral station, 949 E. Channel St., Stockton.
Bee staff writer Garth Stapley can be reached at email@example.com or (209) 578-2390.