The cross-Altamont agency charged with developing a light rail system connecting the northern San Joaquin Valley to the Tri-Valley area crossed a major hurdle Wednesday afternoon in the Tracy City Council chambers.
Board members of the Tri-Valley-San Joaquin Valley Regional Rail Authority, in a celebratory mood, approved the completed study outlining the feasibility of creating what has become known as Valley Link.
As part of state legislation AB 758, which created of the rail authority in 2017, the feasibility study was mandated to be completed within 18 months after the authority went into business in January 2018.
Wednesday’s action met that July 1 deadline with 19 days to spare.
“This is really a great day!” board Chairman Scott Haggerty exclaimed after directors voted unanimously to approve the feasibility study.
Haggerty, an Alameda County supervisor, said the board’s action would be a springboard to aggressively seek state and possibly federal funding to build the 41-mile system extending from Lathrop on the east to the Dublin-Pleasanton BART station on the west. An extension to Stockton would be added later.
He asserted that Valley Link would address “the huge problem” of the traffic bottleneck of Interstate 580 over the Altamont Pass, which is becoming more serious each day. Traffic congestion on surface roads that commuters use to avoid freeway travel is an allied problem.
Tracy City Councilwoman Veronica Vargas, the rail authority board’s vice chairman, echoed Haggerty’s jubilation upon successfully reaching a major milestone in the development of Valley Link.
“I couldn’t be more proud of what we have accomplished in a short 18 months,” she said. “There will be a lot of good things coming out of the feasibility study we have just approved.”
Supervisor Bob Elliott of Tracy acknowledged that creating the Valley Link light rail system will require close cooperation of the rail authority with other agencies, including BART, the San Joaquin Valley Regional Rail Commission and its Altamont Corridor Express trains, the Union Pacific Railroad, and state agencies, including legislative committees and Caltrans.
Completion of an environmental study is the authority’s next goal.
Depending on the success of the funding effort, work on the system could begin within two years and the first trains could be rolling sometime in 2024. The same firm will be contracted to develop the plans and build the project, which promises to speed development and avoid conflicts.
The feasibility study contains key elements and prospects, according to the authority’s staff:
• Provides a cost-effective transportation solution for over 25,000 trips a day in 2040.
• Supports the state rail plan goals providing megaregional travel and filling the gap between BART and ACE.
• Uses existing transportation rights of way.
• Provides a sustainable and equitable solution for travel.
With the reallocation of BART-to-Livermore funds, Valley Link has $628 million in funding — about 30% of the projected total cost of $1.8 billion.