The release of the Valley Link feasibility report for public review last month marked a major milestone for regional officials continuing to work toward completing the commuter light rail project that would directly connect BART to Livermore and the San Joaquin Valley.
The feasibility report, required under the state legislation that cleared the way for the Valley Link concept last year, signals the $1.8 billion transit project could be on track to meet the goal of having its first trains up and running by 2024.
"This study is the result of hundreds of hours of work on the part of the Valley Link board and staff and input from thousands of members of the public on both sides of the Altamont Pass," said Alameda County Supervisor Scott Haggerty, who also sits as the chair of the Tri-Valley/San Joaquin Valley Regional Rail Authority Board.
"It represents another key milestone that was completed on time and keeps us on the path to making this essential project a reality," Haggerty added in a statement.
Speaking on how the commuter light rail project will impact Pleasanton, Mayor Jerry Thorne told the Weekly, "The reduction of traffic on I-580 will be the greatest benefit. There should also be some reduction in 'cut-through' traffic on our city streets."
Although he believes the main change will be highway traffic, Thorne added that parking lots at the local BART stations will be less crowded as a result of Valley Link.
"A lot of the cars you see in the parking lot today are from the Central Valley and Livermore. Once those passengers can board east of here, there should be more parking available for Pleasanton residents," said Thorne, who sits as Pleasanton's representative on the authority's board.
The Regional Rail Authority was created by Assembly Bill 758 to develop the Valley Link commuter light rail system, which was devised as an alternative when BART in May 2018 declined to move forward with the extension of conventional BART to Livermore, as had long been contemplated.
Valley Link aims to connect the communities of the San Joaquin Valley to the Dublin-Pleasanton BART Station, with connections to the Altamont Corridor Express (ACE) rail system. The governing board consists of council members, supervisors and directors of the Tri-Valley and San Joaquin Valley regions.
The concept centers on multiple-unit trains that utilize self-propelled cars with a hybrid engine traveling along primarily Alameda County right-of-way to the county line in the I-580 median, the former Southern Pacific Railroad corridor over the Altamont Pass and in or near the Union Pacific Railroad right-of-way in San Joaquin Valley.
AB 758, which created the Rail Authority, required that a project feasibility report be made available for public input by July 1, 2019, a task the regional board succeeded in completing on June 12.
The report is available for public review at the agency's website, and public input will be accepted through July 31.
"The amount of feedback we have already received on the Valley Link project has been impressive, but there are still opportunities for the public to be heard by reviewing and commenting on this Feasibility Report," said Tracy City Councilwoman Veronica Vargas, vice chair of the authority's board.
The 840-page report covers alignment options, an overview of stations and facilities, system integration with BART and ACE, service characteristics, proposed vehicle technology, projected capital and operating costs, a financing plan, and a recommendation for project management and delivery.
According to the feasibility report, establishment of the Valley Link would alleviate congestion on Interstate 580, especially the Altamont Pass, and its sustainability policy would decrease greenhouse gas emissions and reduce pollution, especially in disadvantaged and low-income communities.
With the expectation of a population increase in the San Joaquin Valley and greater movement towards the Tri-Valley, an economic hub in the Northern California Megaregion, the feasibility report states that Valley Link will connect the two areas efficiently.
"I have spoken with executives from some of our large and small employers here in Pleasanton and they have all agreed that having Valley Link will be quite valuable to them when recruiting employees," Thorne said. "On average, the businesses I have spoken to indicate that approximately 15% of their current employees live east of Pleasanton."
The mayor contends that since employees would be able to live where housing is less expensive and still commute to Pleasanton without worrying about traffic, Valley Link would allow businesses in Pleasanton to expand further.
Phase 1 of Valley Link would connect the existing Dublin-Pleasanton BART Station to the ACE North Lathrop Station, with stops at Isabel and Greenville (ACE) in Livermore, Mountain House, downtown Tracy and River Islands.
A second phase would extend service from the North Lathrop Station to the ACE and Amtrak Stockton Station.
The rail service is proposed to operate from 5 a.m. to 8 p.m., with service every 12 minutes between the Dublin-Pleasanton BART Station and Greenville Road during peak hours and every 24 minutes beyond Greenville to the North Lathrop Station. Trains would be scheduled for convenient transfers to BART, timing-wise.
The feasibility report states that the capital cost of the Valley Link project would be $1.8 billion, including the costs of alignment, stations, operating and maintenance facilities and hybrid vehicles, with $628 million likely earmarked from Alameda County and Livermore impact fees.
To submit comments on the report, send an email to [email protected] with subject "Draft Feasibility Report Comments" by the end of the month.