A $237 million highway/rail grade separation project on what is described as “the busiest, most congested at-grade rail junction and rail bottleneck in California” has been awarded a $100 million TCEP (Trade Corridor Enhancement Program) grant from the California Transportation Commission (CTC).
The Stockton Diamond Grade Separation Project is designed to improve operations and safety for Altamont Corridor Express (ACE) and Amtrak San Joaquins passenger trains and BNSF and Union Pacific freight trains using the shared right-of-way. The San Joaquin Regional Rail Commission (SJRRC) and the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) prepared the TCEP grant application. TCEP’s purpose is to provide funding for infrastructure improvements on federally designated Trade Corridors of National and Regional Significance.
The Stockton Diamond is located just south of Downtown Stockton, Calif., near Aurora Street South and East Scotts Avenue where freight and passenger trains move through an at-grade crossing, “causing significant congestion and delays to service that moves valuable goods and people throughout the Central Valley, Sacramento, Bay Area and Silicon Valley for freight, out to the larger national network,” the grant applicants noted. “Train backups also cause local travel delays at crossings and potential vehicle/rail/bike and pedestrian conflicts. Construction of a grade separation will make this rail infrastructure more efficient and predictable for current and future use.”
The project, an effort of SJRRC, Caltrans, BNSF and UP, as well as regional and local partner agencies, will grade-separate two rail lines with a flyover bridge at the Stockton Diamond to create uninterrupted flow of rail traffic through the crossing. The flyover, the partners say, “would essentially unlock the bottleneck and allow for much improved operational efficiencies for the freight railroads and passenger rail services. It is a critical element in SJRRC’s vision to expand intercity and commuter rail service connecting the San Joaquin Valley, Sacramento and the Bay Area.”
SJRRC is currently in the planning and environmental phase of its $1 billion-plus Valley Rail Program service expansion program for ACE and San Joaquins to add daily round-trips for Amtrak and extend the ACE service from Sacramento to Merced. It also supports converting the San Joaquins train and thruway bus network to renewable diesel fuel and “is a key component to improving air quality in the region.”
“We greatly appreciate the CTC recognizing the critical nature of the Stockton Diamond Grade Separation project,” said SJRRC Chair Christina Fugazi. “Matched with our recent $20 million federal BUILD award, the $100 Million TCEP award will go to untangling the largest freight bottleneck in California, allowing improved, efficient goods movement through our region, state and nation. The project will also impact our Stockton community by improving several at-grade crossings for cars, bicycles and pedestrians.”
“The San Joaquin Valley region plays an important role in California’s transportation system,” said Caltrans Director Toks Omishakin. “This critical project will help facilitate economic growth, reduce dependence on fuel, improve air quality in the region and reduce delays affecting freight and passenger rail.”
“This project is a critical step in unlocking freight and passenger rail mobility in Northern California. The Stockton Diamond Grade Separation will fix one of the most congested rail corridors, enhance safety, reduce emissions and provide faster, more reliable passenger rail options for our riders,” said SJJPA (San Joaquin Joint Powers Authority) Chair Vito Chiesa. SJJPA provides administration and management for Amtrak’s Bakersfield-Fresno-Modesto-Stockton-Sacramento-Oakland San Joaquins service.
“The CTC’s investment in this project is a ringing endorsement to the important role rail plays in expanding the reach of Central Valley industry to the rest of the nation,” said Union Pacific General Director Adrian Guerrero. “We look forward to working with local, state and federal agencies as well as our partners at SJRRC, Caltrans and BNSF on this important rail infrastructure effort.”
On Aug. 19, 2020, the SJRRC launched the Environmental Review process for the project, in cooperation with the Federal Railroad Administration and the California High Speed Rail Authority. For more information, visit stocktondiamond.com.