One ‘Valley Rail’ plan really worth a further look

The intent of the California high-speed-rail program is to connect Los Angeles and San Francisco by high-speed train. If all goes according to plan, an express, non-stop train between the former and latter, will cover the 520-rail-mile distance in under three hours. Eventually, Sacramento and San Diego will be brought online. The state high-speed rail project is part of a larger program to better passenger-rail-connect the state. According to projections, the launch of the Los Angeles-to-San Francisco service is some 13 years away.

One other component of note of the so-called “updated” state or statewide passenger rail plan is known as Valley Rail, a strategic alliance coordinating the passenger-train services of the Altamont Corridor Express (ACE) and Amtrak San Joaquin whereupon in the coordinated service arrangement to serve as end-points will be the Bakersfield, Sacramento, San Jose triumvirate. Such a partnership as this is long overdue.

In an Apr. 26, 2018 San Joaquin Joint Powers Authority and San Joaquin Regional Rail Commission joint press release, the Authority expressed: “Today the California State Transportation Agency announced a series of grant awards under the Transit and Intercity Rail Capital Program (TIRCP), and selected the Valley Rail Project as a major awardee providing $500,500,000 to fund a series of new stations and track improvements to increase connectivity and frequency of service to the Sacramento region. The Valley Rail Project is a joint proposal by the San Joaquin Joint Powers Authority and the San Joaquin Regional Rail Commission to dramatically improve passenger rail service to the Sacramento region with both Amtrak San Joaquins and Altamont Corridor Express (ACE) service.

Tower Bridge, Sacramento

“The Valley Rail project will implement a new transportation vision for serving the Sacramento region with integrated intercity and commuter rail service. The grant funds will help perform track improvements on the existing Union Pacific Railroad Sacramento subdivision freight corridor that runs just east of Interstate 5 to make it usable for passenger service, and build new shared San Joaquins and ACE stations in Lodi, Elk Grove, Sacramento City College, Sacramento Midtown, Old North Sacramento, and Natomas which will include a shuttle connection to the Sacramento International Airport.”

Further, “[a]dditional new stations will also be constructed along the ACE and San Joaquins routes as a result of this award: on the San Joaquins line, new stations will be built in Madera and Oakley; on the ACE route, new stations will be built in Ceres, Modesto, Ripon, Manteca, and North Lathrop.”

And, finally, “[t]he award also includes funds for ACE to procure zero emission buses to support interim feeder service between Merced and Ceres, and rolling stock for both corridors to support service increase. The grant is coordinated with 2016 TIRCP investments that are already being implemented in order to expand platforms to accommodate longer 10-car trains to add capacity on the four ACE round trips that currently cross the Altamont Pass.”

Additional funding will go towards converting the whole fleet and that includes the network of thruway buses “to renewable diesel fuel, providing greenhouse gas (GHG) benefits across the entire existing (449 track miles) and proposed expanded (119 track miles) San Joaquins and ACE services,” as so-indicated in the joint press release.

Efforts such as Valley Rail, California high-speed rail and others are needed. Maybe not as much if the transportation sector wasn’t the single largest contributor of pollutant emissions in state with such on the upswing and perhaps even less so if said emissions were showing signs of marked retreat, which they’re not.

Port of Los Angeles and the Vincent Thomas Bridge

Long-time readers of the Air Quality Matters site know all too well the damage to human, animal and plant health air-toxics can cause and the dangers they pose. And, areas like Sacramento, Los Angeles, the San Joaquin Valley and San Francisco Bay Area are the state’s air pollution hotspots. That the growth in state population is itself on the increase, the potential is there for said pollution in these trouble spots to become even worse.

In response, residents need ways of getting around that do so without bogging them down. And, practical, viable, efficient, safe, comfortable, speedy, frequent, and reliable passenger rail service will enable this as well as to help the state meet its transportation and emissions-reduction goals, with Valley Rail well positioned to do its part.

It’s a given that not just California but the states need these kinds of passenger-rail upgrade and expansion programs.

Images: Michael Grindstaff (top); United States Coast Guard, PA3 Louis Hebert (second); San Joaquin Joint Powers Authority (bottom)

This post was last revised on Dec. 27, 2020 @ 9:38 a.m. Pacific Standard Time.

Published by Alan Kandel

3 thoughts on “One ‘Valley Rail’ plan really worth a further look”

  1. Dream on Buckero! The California High Speed Rail is not going to happen……..its so far over budget its ridiculous. It’s not going to be “high speed” and will not come close to competing with airlines both time and cost wise. Look up “Boondoggle” in the dictionary and you’ll find the CHSR project.

    Air pollution is so minimal in the LA basin now the local weather forecasters don’t even bother reporting their “smog alert” status reports anymore. There is minimal to no air pollution compared to 50 years ago…….so that is a specious reason to push rail transportation . The real story is the brain dead liberal politicians in Sacramento doing everything in their power to get people out of their cars……….that is not reality and never will be. Even bus transportation numbers are falling.

    • I’ll take the “Buckero!” comment as a compliment.

      As for California high-speed rail, we won’t ever know the promise the project holds unless it’s built. Californians, people, deserve to have a choice of transportation options to choose from. I used to drive from Fresno to Long Beach and back (round-trip) at least once per week when I was teaching at California State University, Long Beach in the late ’80s. It was a 4 1/2-hour drive one way when I left Fresno at 8 a.m. on Tuesdays and on my return when leaving Long Beach at 1 p.m. on Thursdays. (I worked part-time). Had I left the two respective cities – earlier on Tues. mornings and later on Thurs. afternoons, I would have been caught up in congested traffic which happened to me on occasion. How nice it would have been to have had a high-speed train at my disposal then. The same trip could have been done in 1 1/2 hours.

      One way or another California will have high-speed rail. I read somewhere recently where XpressWest (Virgin Trains?) will soon embark on construction on its 185-mile high-speed rail line between Las Vegas and Victorville. It’s possible the service could launch as early as 2023. And, if I’m correct, Texas Central high-speed rail isn’t far behind.

  2. Wow Randy, you managed to include every anti-rail think tank talking point into your 2 short paragraphs. You forgot “its a train to nowhere!” and “no one rides trains any more”.

    High speed trains all over the world – in EVERY corridor where they are built – displaces airplanes. Look up discount airline RyanAir cancelling all their flights in Italy where the 2 high speed train companies operate. They were quoted as saying they could no longer compete with high speed rail, especially 2 of them.

    “Air pollution is so minimal in the LA basin now” … right! Compared to eye burning smog, yes it may be less, but its still epic… as is the congestion, and the stress of all the people stuck for hours a day in the hell congestion. All that seems perfectly ok with you! Amazing! You must also be enjoying spending your days stuck in airports waiting for delayed flights too.

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