Environmental Review + Scoping


In 2013, ACEforward embarked on a revised and streamlined planning process, which includes an environmental review process and a scoping process. In May 2016, ACEforward completed supplemental scoping for environmental review of an additional project element connecting the Coast and Niles rail subdivisions.

Latest Update

The San Joaquin Regional Rail Commission released a Supplemental Notice of Preparation (NOP) in May 2016 to alert interested parties and agencies that they are soliciting input on a new project element to be included in the ACEforward Environmental Impact Report (EIR). This new project element would create a connection between existing freight rail lines at Niles Junction, providing better freight rail access to the Port of Oakland. The goal of this project element would be to clear up rail lines allowing freight rail to utilize other rail lines not previously accessible without the proposed new connection.
 
Click here to view the Supplemental Scoping Report which contains more information on this new project element, the associated scoping and planning process, and a summary of the public comments that were received.  Public scoping meetings for this new project element took place on May 24 and 26, 2016.  Scoping meeting materials are provided here.
 

Alternatives Development

On April 4, 2014, the Board of the San Joaquin Regional Rail Commission reviewed a presentation detailing an initial set of alternatives for consideration in the ACE forward alternatives analysis. These have been developed with input from the Central Valley Rail and Altamont Rail Working Groups, which consist of representatives of local and regional transit agencies and elected officials and staff of counties and cities along the ACE corridor.
ALTERNATIVES ANALYSIS AND DEVELOPMENT SJRRC BOARD PRESENTATION:
 
The alternatives presented to the SJRRC Board will be evaluated in the CEQA/NEPA environmental document.  The alternatives presented to the Board focused on three types of improvements:
 
  • Program level improvements necessary for ACE to operate 10 daily round trip trains and extend service to Merced by 2023;
  • Project level improvements necessary for ACE to operate 6 daily round trip trains and extend service to Modesto by 2019; and
  • Project-wide grade crossing improvements.

The team also presented information on accomplishments to date, summary schedules for CEQA/NEPA environmental documents, project design, and construction, and planned next steps in the ACE forward process.

The San Joaquin Regional Rail Commission then worked on refining the alternatives that were presented to and reviewed by the Board of the San Joaquin Regional Rail Commission in April 2014. The alternatives refinement will allow ACE to prepare the final project definition to progress the environmental review process - with field review and data collection and analysis.

In 2014, additional progress was made on estimating costs and analyzing ridership.  Results of the work can be found here.

Since the initial set of ACEforward alternatives were presented to the Board of the San Joaquin Regional Rail Commission in April 2014, the ACEforward alternatives have received additional definition and additional potential station locations have been added to the environmental analysis.  The new alternative definitions and potential station locations are described below:

Tri-Valley BART Connection

A key part of the ACEforward environmental document will be studying ways to provide a better connection between ACE and BART.  The Preliminary forecasts and costs of the BART Connectivity Alternatives was presented at the Altamont Regional Rail Working Group on July 13, 2016.  Click here to view the PowerPoint presentation [click here].  Seven potential alternatives to connect ACE to BART have been identified for analysis in the environmental process.  These alternatives were presented to the SJRRC at their November 6, 2015 Board Meeting as described below:

  • Existing shuttle connections with additional frequency of service.  Click here for map.
  • Bart Extension and Bus Connection: Extend BART service along I-580 to Isabel Road in Livermore, and create a bus extension from the Downtown Livermore ACE station that connects to the extended BART line.  Click here for map.
  • ACE Spur to Dublin/Pleasanton BART: Implement a new route for ACE trains along I-580 that extends to the Dublin/Pleasanton BART station.  Click here for map.
  • BART Extension to Isabel/580 with ACE Spur: Exten BART service along I-580 to Isabel Road in Livermore, and extend ACE service along I-580 from the Greenville Road Station to Isabel Road.  Click here for map.
  • BART Extension to Greenville Road/580: Extend BART service along I-580 to a new ACE station at Greenville Road in Livermore.  Click here for map.
  • BART Extension to Vasco Road via Downtown Livermore: Extend BART service along I-580 and through Downtown Livermore along Portola Avenue to connect BART to a new ACE station at Vasco Road in Livermore.  Click here for map.
  • BART Extension to Vasco Road with Downtown Livermore Intermodal: Create the same connection as the BART Extension to Vasco Road via Downtown Livermore alternative, and also include a BART connecting station at the existing Downtown Livermore ACE station.  Click here for map.

Union City Extension (BART Link)

ACEforward improvements also propose establishing a potential train-to-train ACE/BART connection between the ACE Fremont Station and the BART Union City Station via a track connection between the Centerville line (on the Niles Subdivision) and the Oakland Subdvision.  This track connection, known as the Shinn connection, was previously analyzed in the Union City Intermodal Station Passenger Rail project.  There are two train technlologies (standard diesel locomotive trains or diesel multiple unit [DMU] trains) that are being evaluated for this ACE/BART connection.

Niles Canyon Alternatives

Three alternatives are under consideration at Niles Canyon, as described below:
  • Centerville Line Expansion, Alameda Creek Bridge, Sunol Double Track, and Hearst Siding Extension: This alternative would add capacity by way of constructing an additional main track on the Niles Suddivision through Centerville, and on the Oakland Subdivision from west of Sunol to Castlewood Drive, incorporating the Hearst Siding.  This alternative would also establish a new track connection crossing over Alameda Creek between the Niles Subdivison and Oakland Subdivison at Niles Junction to allow for freight trains to utilize the Niles Subdivision between the Port of Oakland and the Central Valley.
  • Niles Canyon Railway Upgrades, and Northern Connection: This alternative would add capacity by way of upgrading the Niles Canyon Railway (NCRR) [used for public excursion trains] so that it could be used for freight operations.  This alternative would construct a new track connection between the Niles Subdvision and NCRR at Niles Junction, upgrade the NCRR track and bridge structures to UP standards from Niles Junction to north of Sunol, and construct a new track connection between the NCRR and Oakland Subdivision north of Sunol.  The new track connection between the NIles Subdvision and NCRR at Niles Junction would allow for freight trains to utilize the Niles Subdivison between the Port of Oakland and the Central Valley.
  • Niles Canyon Railway Upgrades, Southern Connection, Sunol Double Track, and Hearst Siding Extension: This alternative would add capacity by way of upgrading the NCRR so that it could also be used for freight operations.  This alternative would construct a new track connection between the Niles Subdvision and NCRR  at Niles Junction, upgrade the NCRR track and bridge structures to UP standards from Niles Junction to west of Sunol, and constrcut an additional main track from west of Sunol to Castlewood Drive on the Oakland Subdivison, incorporating the Hearst Siding.  The new track connection between the Niles Subdivision and NCRR at Niles Junction would allow for freight trains to utilize the Niles Subdivision between the Port of Oakland and the Central Valley.

Potential Ceres Station
In 2015, the city of Ceres requested that as part of the ACEforward project extension to Merced, a potential ACE rail station be evaluated adjacent to the City's downtown area.  As a result, ACE analyzed the potential ridership gains and developed a conceptual design for the potential station.  These ridership numbers and the station design were discussed with the City and presented to the City Council on October 12, 2015.  At this meeting it was officially requested that the potential station be included in the environmental analysis. 

West Tracy Station Alternatives 
In 2015, over 1,000 residents of Mountain House signed a petition for a new ACE rail station located west of Tracy in unicorporated San Joaquin County as part of the ACEforward project.  As a result, ACE is in the process of analyzing various alternatives for a potential new station in West Tracy.  More information on these alternatives will be available during the public review process for ACEforward's environemtal documentation.  See below for a map of the current potential station alternatives.

Lathrop/Manteca Station Alternatives
In 2016, the city of Manteca requested that as part of the ACEforward project, a potential relocation of the existing Lathrop/Manteca ACE rail station be evaluated.  The requested location would shift the station approximately one mile to the southwest adjacent to the new Highway 120/McKinley Avenue Interchange.  As a result, ACE is working with Lathrop and Manteca to develop a design that not only addresses the concerns with the existing facility, but would also provide potential transit-oriented development (TOD) opportunities. 
Exhibit_11x17_New_Tracy_Overview-with-West-Tracy-Station-Options-wo-bleed_6_22_16-(1).jpg


Your Input Matters 

We welcome your feedback on the ACEforward project, including the potential alternatives described above.  The Draft Environmental Impact Report and a public review period is scheduled for early 2017. Check back for more updates on opportunities to get involved.  

Scoping

Supplemental scoping for a new rail connection project element took place in May 2016 (see above). This additional project element would connect existing freight rail lines at Niles Junction to create more direct access for freight rail to the Port of Oakland, thereby clearing up rail line space for ACE trains. More information is presented above in the Latest Update section.

The initial ACEforward Notice of Preparation (NOP) was released on June 24, 2013, marking the beginning of the official scoping comment period (seeking comments from agencies, stakeholders, and the public on the proposed project/program).  SJRRC and the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) are jointly preparing an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) and Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for ACE forward in compliance with the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). SJRRC is serving as the lead agency for the preparation of the EIR and the FRA is serving as the lead agency for the preparation of the EIS.

The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) published the Notice of Intent (NOI) in the Federal Register on September, 18, 2013. This extended the official comment period for scoping by 30 days until October 18, 2013. Due to the federal shutdown, federal agencies were not able to comment during some of this period. Thus the comment period was extended by the length of time of the shutdown to November 4, 2013.

During the public review period for the NOP we have received over 80 written comments and questions pertaining to the ACE forward project.
 
We've heard:
  • Lots of support for the overall project
  • Questions and concerns regarding funding of extensions, improvements, and additional ACE frequency of service mostly in regards to horn noise
  • A downtown Tracy station has supporters and opposition
  • There is a lot of interest in a direct connection with BART in the Tri-Valley and Union City has requested that a direct connection to BART be evaluated at Union City
  • Safety improvements are supported, as they also provide opportunities to reduce horn noise

Scoping Report:





Pictures are from the scoping meetings at the Tracy
Transit Station (above) and the Livermore Civic Center Library (below).

Scoping Meetings were widely advertised in local newspapers, on trains and at train stations and meeting locations. In addition, all residents and homeowners along the existing and planned corridor received a postcard announcing the scoping meetings, and an email announcement was sent to more than 2,500 known Stakeholders. The scoping meetings were held at the following locations with the listed attendance:

Location Date Attendance (Signed-in)
Santa Clara, Central Park Library July 22, 2013 16
Fremont, Senior Community Center July 23, 2013 17
Modesto, Stanislaus County Library July 24, 2013 63
Livermore, Civic Center Library July 29, 2013 43
Tracy, Transit Station July 30, 2013 45
 
Presentation Materials from the Scoping Meetings:


Online Scoping Event:
SJRRC hosted a public online event with a presentation about ACE forward and an opportunity to comment and ask questions as part of the extended scoping period. The web event was held on October 9, 2013 from 11:30 AM to about 12:30 PM PST. A recording of the event can be accessed here:
 
https://aecom.webex.com/aecom/lsr.php?AT=pb&SP=EC&rID=78413542&rKey=611c4f37db23760a