The final environmental impact report (EIR) for the proposed Valley Link commuter light rail system was unanimously approved last week by the Tri-Valley/San Joaquin Valley Regional Rail Authority Board of Directors, bringing the project another step closer to fruition.
"I am proud that we have reached this important project milestone that moves the project closer toward completion. The project will bring congestion relief to more than 97,900 commuters traveling daily over the Altamont Pass," Tracy Mayor Pro Tem Veronica Vargas, who also serves as chair of the Valley Link board, said in a statement.
Livermore Mayor Bob Woerner, who is a member of the board, shared similar sentiments. "Completion of the environmental work is a critical project milestone, and I'm excited to see the project move forward into further design," he told the Weekly in an email.
He added, "We now have an opportunity to make our new Valley Link passenger rail line a model of environmental sustainability -- with new and emerging zero emission vehicle technology, electric shared autonomous vehicles and a carbon free power system. It can truly be a transformational project."
The vote, along with other related actions by the board, allows the rail authority to move forward with design work and securing funding for the project, which Vargas said will improve the quality of life for commuters throughout the region.
"People continue to suffer in their daily lives with anguishing super commutes. This hurts our environment. It hurts our economy. But importantly, it translates to the loss of 28 days per year on average for each individual commuter and this hurts our communities and our families," she said.
Proposed as a new transit connection between Alameda and San Joaquin counties, Valley Link would add seven new passenger light rail service stations along a 42-mile corridor between the Dublin-Pleasanton BART Station and the planned Altamont Corridor Express North Lathrop Station.
Once in service, Valley Link would provide 74 daily round trips and is expected to carry more than 33,000 daily riders by 2040. The EIR found that the project would result in the reduction of approximately 141 million vehicle miles traveled per year by 2040, which would significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions, according to the Rail Authority.
In addition to its environmental benefits, the project will have an economic impact, creating employment opportunities.
"Valley Link will connect people to work but also create jobs -- an estimated 22,000 during construction and when operational support 400 jobs per year. It is vital to our economy given the recovery needs we are now facing," said Dublin Mayor Melissa Hernandez, also vice chair of the Valley Link board.
In addition to the EIR, the board approved a mitigation monitoring plan for the project that includes measures intended to minimize potential environmental impacts. If the project continues on track, the first Valley Link trains could be placed into service in 2028.
More information about the project is available here.