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ACE train to Ceres delayed two more years
• It looks like service may come in 2026
Ace Train
ACE started 20 years ago with only two daily round trips. But the past seven years have seen the ACE train double its ridership to more than 5,000 people per day and 1.3 million people annually.

It’ll be some time before you’re able to jump on the ACE train in Ceres and head over to catch the 49ers for a game in Santa Clara or to work anywhere in the Bay area. Officials now say that the Altamont Corridor Express won’t be a reality in Ceres for at least two years beyond what was originally forecast.

ACE train service, which currently runs between the Bay Area and Lathrop, aimed to extend passenger service to Manteca, Ripon, Modesto and Ceres by this year and to Turlock and Merced by 2027. Now the prediction is that Ceres will have a train platform and service by 2026. Service to Turlock may come as early as 2029 and Livingston and Merced by 2030.

ACE also plans to extend a line to Sacramento.

The two-year delay is due to a complicated review process that Union Pacific Railroad – which operates freight trains on the same tracks to be used by ACE trains – must undertake to ensure safety for all and maintaining reliable freight deliveries.

Extending the line southward into Ceres and Merced County is being mostly funded by a $400 million amount committed by the state as a result of a 2017 legislative deal. Then state Senator Anthony Cannella cast the swing vote to approve then Governor Jerry Brown’s $52 billion transportation tax hike in Senate Bill 1 in exchange a state pledge of $400 million to extending ACE to Merced.

Modesto would also get an ACE train stop at the existing transit station on Ninth Street. Modesto city officials are currently renovating the historic 1915 train depot on Ninth Street in anticipation of the ACE service. That station is now used for a municipal bus hub and Greyhound bus stop.

Ceres would be the end of the southern extension until the second phase takes it to Turlock and Merced. Until a Merced line is extended, Merced riders will be able to ride to Ceres and take a bus to Merced.

The ACE train extension is part of Valley Rail, an ambitious program to improve passenger rail connectivity and accessibility between the Central Valley, Bay Area, and Sacramento regions. It includes connections to existing Amtrak service in the Valley.

Overseeing the expansion is the San Joaquin Regional Rail Commission

ACE currently operates four westbound trains in the morning from Stockton to San Jose and four eastbound trains in the afternoon from San Jose to Stockton during weekdays. ACE stops at 10 stations along the route: (from west to east), San Jose Diridon, Santa Clara and Great America stations in Santa Clara County; Fremont, Pleasanton, Livermore, and Vasco Road stations in Alameda County; and Tracy, Lathrop/Manteca, and Stockton stations in San Joaquin County. 

ACE trains typically consist of a diesel locomotive pulling four to seven bi-level passenger coaches and travels at a top speed of 79 mph. A feature of the train is Wi-Fi connection so that professionals can work on laptops while they ride to the workplace.

Plans call for the Ceres platform to be located west of Highway 99 near Whitmore Park.

The station platform – measuring about 15 feet wide and 1,000 feet long – will feature passenger amenities and safety features, such as patron shelters with benches and map boxes, ticket validation machines, street lamps, guardrails, security equipment, and emergency call box stations. A 1,200-foot-long fence would be constructed between the existing main track and the second main track (which would function as the station track) in the vicinity of the station platform.

Passengers will be able to buy tickets online or from a ticket kiosk at the platform. Still to be determined is if the facility will be equipped with a restroom although passengers have access to restrooms in the rail cars.

Parking for the Ceres station has become a sticking point. Original plans called for a concrete retaining wall to be constructed to shoulder the east side of the raised freeway to create 116 stalls for vehicles along El Camino Avenue from Central Avenue to the southern point of Whitmore Park. According to City Engineer Kevin Waugh, Caltrans has rejected those plans, leaving few options for the city other than shave off part of Whitmore Park’s western section to create room for parking.

As it stands, plans call for pedestrians to access the train platform via a 12-foot-wide new pedestrian path crossing beneath the freeway.

During the interim period when Ceres is the farthest point south, evening trains will be stored at a layover facility south of Service Road. The temporary layover facility in Ceres would discontinue with the completion of the extension to Merced and a permanent layover facility in Merced.