A concerned and troubled citizen brought the news to the Irrigator’s attention after attending two of the earlier ACE train meetings and researching ACEforward materials in similar articles. A follow up by the Irrigator staff soon found that the Federal Railway Administration had specific goals for 2018 and 2022 that would improve the existing service between Stockton and San Jose, including added frequencies and reduced travel time…but not for West Side residents.
The ACE train intends to extend its tracks to other areas in the Central Valley, including downtown Manteca, Turlock, Merced and Modesto during its 10-year plan. A stop can be found in Tracy, but other than that, the West Side is completely untouched in the initial plan. Inquiries of the project management team confirmed there is no current plan to serve the West Side citizens with anything but the bills to be paid.
For housing so many commuters, it seems perplexing why Patterson and the West Side would not be considered appropriate for some type of mass transportation services, considering our superior connection to existing useable railroad systems; a natural rail connection at the proposed Tracy station less than thirty miles away; and the relatively easy development of parking and train platforms, this seems very curious.
Our existing infrastructure could service citizens from Vernalis to Los Banos and beyond with a very low price tag, and a very quick delivery schedule. Another useful idea would be to set up a shuttle service to connect at the Tracy station, which could be set up in a matter of months if the desire to truly provide mass transit is the goal.
The worst blow is that the West Side community members are expected to pay for the local sales tax increase despite living so far from the tracks because ACE train is extending its service into Stanislaus County. The tracks would be built through a new county wide sales tax increment, where Stanislaus County’s West Side sales tax is expected to pay a pro rata share percent of the $80 million initial budget estimate tag based on population.
Luckily, the West Side is not without hope.
On September 18, the Federal Railway Administration released its “notice of Intent” (NOI) for the ACEforward project, and is extending its scoping period until October 18. There will be an online web event for agencies and the public to learn more about the project and to provide comments.
It would be beneficial for West Side residents and officials to ask questions and pose concerns to the board.
The online event will take place on Oct. 9 from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Anyone interested in viewing the meeting should visit this web address 10 minutes before its scheduled time: https://aecom.webex.com/aecom/onstage/g.php?t=a&d=251239208
If the West Side shows a strong level of interest in the project, perhaps Patterson residents will have a chance to pay for a piece of the pie, and eat it too.