ACE Ceres-Merced Extension Project Advances

Written by Marybeth Luczak, Executive Editor
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The San Joaquin Regional Rail Commission (SJRRC) Board of Directors has certified the Final Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for the project extending Altamont Corridor Express (ACE) service south between Ceres and Merced, Calif.

The 34-mile ACE Ceres-Merced Extension Project (see map above) would upgrade existing track and construct new track within the Union Pacific (UP) Fresno Subdivision. Three new stations plus a layover and maintenance facility would be built. Lead project agency SJRRC identified stations at Turlock, Livingston (with Atwater as an alternative), and Merced in the Final EIR. At its Dec. 3 meeting, the SJRRC Board not only signed off on the Final EIR, but also approved the project, including the Livingston Station.

SJRRC is the designated owner, operator and policy-making body for ACE, which comprises an 86-mile corridor between Stockton and San Jose with 10 stations (see map below). Commuter rail service, which runs weekdays, includes two westbound trains in the morning from Stockton and two eastbound trains in the afternoon from San Jose.

SJRRC published the ACE Ceres-Merced Extension Project’s Draft EIR on April 22, which was available for public review and comment until June 7, and the Final EIR on Nov. 19. On Dec. 3, it filed a Notice of Determination (NOD) with the State Clearinghouse, Stanislaus County Clerk, and Merced County Clerk. Project permitting is next, followed by final design and construction. SJRRC anticipates service to begin in 2025. (The agency was awarded $400 million for the project as part of Senate Bill (SB) 132, passed in April 2017.)

The ACE Ceres-Merced Extension Project is a part of the Valley Rail Program, which “envisions extensions of the ACE service northward to Sacramento and southward to Merced, and expansion of the [Amtrak] San Joaquins between the San Joaquin Valley and Sacramento,” according to SJRRC.

Three other ACE-related Valley Rail projects are currently in development to implement this expanded ACE service: the Valley Rail Sacramento Extension Project (currently in final design), the ACE Extension Lathrop to Ceres/Merced Project (currently in the final design phase for Lathrop to Ceres), and the Stockton Diamond Grade Separation Project (currently in preliminary design and project-level environmental clearance phase).

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