Valley Link timetable pushed out by three more years | News | PleasantonWeekly.com |

News

Valley Link timetable pushed out by three more years

Citing likely lower state funding, feasibility report now estimates opening date of 2027 at earliest

The Valley Link commuter light rail system aiming to directly connect BART to Livermore and the San Joaquin Valley likely won't see its first trains run until at least 2027, three years later than initially estimated, as regional officials are now planning on less funding from the state in the short term.

That according to the project's final feasibility report, which was adopted last week by the Tri-Valley/San Joaquin Valley Regional Rail Authority Board of Directors.

The wide-ranging report, which concludes the multibillion-dollar transit project is achievable, also increases the cost estimates with new contingencies and updates ridership figures that could necessitate more frequent trains in medium-term than initially planned.

But the new project timetable marks the first significant schedule shift for the regional agency that had eyed an aggressive construction plan since it was formed two summers ago.

Even as recently as July, the authority cited an opening date of 2024. New funding realities have forced officials to push that timeline out to between the second quarter of 2027 and fourth quarter 2028.

"The schedule is basically driven by funding," Michael Tree, executive director of the Regional Rail Authority, told the Weekly on Monday morning.

"Originally we had anticipated that the state would have more rail funding that it would program in the upcoming funding cycle. However, over the last few months they have announced funding levels that are well below what they have done in the past," Tree said. "With that said, we have put into the Valley Link funding plan less anticipated funding for the project from the state and the need for new local funding."

Mayor Jerry Thorne, who represents Pleasanton on the authority's board, added, "The schedule was bumped a few years to accommodate emerging and likely proposed sales tax measures in the Bay Area and the San Joaquin Valley (such as "FASTER Bay Area"), in combination with funding from the state."

Thorne, like other members of the regional board, also pointed to the importance of the feasibility report as keeping the project on the track toward a reality.

"From Pleasanton's perspective the Valley Link feasibility report is important because it identifies that the Valley Link passenger rail project is in fact feasible to advance into further study and development. This occurs specifically with the environmental work for the project that is underway and anticipated to be out for public comment in draft form by the end of the calendar year," he told the Weekly.

Valley Link was borne from state legislation passed in 2018 that cleared the way for a regional joint powers authority to develop a transit concept 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 Interstate 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.

Phase 1 of Valley Link would connect the Dublin-Pleasanton 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 North Lathrop to the ACE and Amtrak Stockton Station.

Assembly Bill 758, which created the Regional Rail Authority, required a project feasibility report to be made available for public input by July 1, a task the regional board completed on June 12.

A public comment period followed, through July 31, after which the authority completed the final draft for board consideration. The directors approved the final report during its meeting Oct. 9 in Tracy.

"The fact that we received 144 public comments on the feasibility report shows the level of public interest in this vital project," said Alameda County Supervisor Scott Haggerty, who serves as chair of the authority board.

"All of the comments received were thoughtfully considered and resulted in a number of modifications from the initial plan to the final feasibility report that the board adopted today," he added in a written statement.

The final report also adjusts the Phase 1 cost estimates, with a range of $1.8 billion to $2.5 billion in today's dollars, increase to as much as $2.4 billion to $3.2 billion at the time of construction with inflation.

"The board is still looking to deliver the project for under $2 billion," Tree said. "However, we felt that this early in the project, at the 15% design stage, the project should have additional contingency for unknowns and so we layered in an unallocated contingency and created a range of costs for the project."

He also noted that the board decided the report should plan for a 12-minute headway for trains in 2040 in all instances, instead of 24 minutes in the San Joaquin Valley section -- 12-minute headways were always planned in the Tri-Valley portion.

In Thorne's view, Valley Link remains a viable option to help commuters coming to and through the Tri-Valley, as well as supporting Pleasanton businesses by providing a public transit option for Central Valley employees and the environment by taking cars off the road.

"There are more than 86,000 commuters a day making that trip and that number is estimated to grow 75% by 2040. I'm not sure how you can fit a 75% increase in traffic, much at peak time, on the I-580," Thorne said. "With Valley Link these commuters will have a rail option that connects them more easily with employers in Pleasanton and with the BART system for those that are traveling beyond Pleasanton."

Tracy Councilwoman Veronica Vargas summed it up in the authority's statement last Friday: "The commute over the Altamont is one of the worst in the United States and this rail line will give another alternative to the 87,000 commuters who make that trip daily."

The final feasibility report can be accessed online at valleylinkrail.com.

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Comments

4 people like this
Posted by Grumpy
a resident of Vineyard Avenue
on Oct 14, 2019 at 6:59 pm

Grumpy is a registered user.

You know, if they just allocated the complete funding for the whole thing up front as a condition of announcing the project, then we wouldn't all get the impression that they have no clue what they are doing and don't really care...


2 people like this
Posted by James Michael
a resident of Val Vista
on Oct 14, 2019 at 7:18 pm

James Michael is a registered user.

Does anyone remember Key System...before the government takeover. That's when all of the problems began. The government controlling the "means of production". Ya, we are living in a communist state.


10 people like this
Posted by What a Waste
a resident of Foothill High School
on Oct 14, 2019 at 8:59 pm

Please just spend more money and extend BART. Transfers are a pain and add at least 20 minutes to a commute for each transfer. This is a joke right! Here is a typical morning coming from Lathrop to SF. Drive to ACE train, wait 20 minutes for train. Get on train. Get off ACE train and transfer to bus bridge to Amtrak. After waiting 20 minutes for bus bridge, get on bus and get off at Amtrak. Wait 20 minutes for Amtrak and get on. Get off Amtrak and wait another 20 minutes and get on bus bridge to Valley Link. Get off Valley Link and wait 20 minutes for another bus bridge to BART. Take bus bridge to BART, wait 15 minutes for BART. Finally get on BART and ride it out to SF. Anyway, you get the point. This is ridiculous!!!


4 people like this
Posted by Pleasanton Parent
a resident of Pleasanton Meadows
on Oct 14, 2019 at 9:24 pm

Apparently 3yrs in the time it takes for tax payers to forget about the last extension tax


7 people like this
Posted by Map
a resident of Del Prado
on Oct 15, 2019 at 12:34 pm

How about putting BART management up in temporary trailers in the corner of one of the BART parking lots when their office lease runs out then take all that money for their new building and put it towards tracks to Livermore, think of it as a partial payment for promises not kept for bailing on the city of Livermore.


6 people like this
Posted by Jason
a resident of Jensen Tract
on Oct 15, 2019 at 2:40 pm

For those that say just extend BART. Well, of course and every local official in the Tri-Valley Region supports that, however the BART Board of Directors voted against an extension to Livermore. I've said it before and I'll say it again....the Bart Board and staff are the problem, but everyone blames our local officials because they are trying to do something to solve a problem. I actually give them some credit for being a little creative to solve a problem. Otherwise the same people blame them for doing nothing. Can't win!

The necessary change is the BART governance structure or getting rid of it completely and coming up with something new.


3 people like this
Posted by sjd
a resident of Livermore
on Oct 15, 2019 at 3:30 pm

I have problems with the BART board, but no, our local officials and even voters deserve blame.

Our officials expanded the express lanes and demanded they be kept, making bridge work more expensive. Our populace voted to keep BART on the freeway, and then our local officials and staff put out an at-best-lackluster station area plan, resulting in one of the most expensive stations ever (measured by $/additional rider).


6 people like this
Posted by Barry
a resident of Alisal Elementary School
on Oct 15, 2019 at 7:48 pm

Barry is a registered user.

All great comments here! My concern is in addition to reducing commuter congestion and emissions is emergency planning. We all see the gridlock when even a minor fender bender happens. What about a big earthquake, wildfire or attack? We will have no access out of the Tri Valley! Build the Link now and do forward thinking like another bay bridge, BART tube crossing, expand Vasco more and dare I say it, another freeway to I5 like Highway 156 connecting Hollister or Gilroy.


Like this comment
Posted by Simon
a resident of Amador Estates
on Jan 10, 2020 at 12:33 pm

Relocating business would reduce traffic tax breaks for business/industry instead of spending billions


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