The San Joaquin Regional Rail Commission (SJRRC) is launching an effort to modernize the existing Altamont Corridor Express (ACE) rail service. The ACEforward initiative is focused on near-term improvements in the existing corridor to enhance regional connections between the California Central Valley, the Tri-Valley and Silicon Valley. As of June 6, 2013, project leadership and funding for the Altamont Corridor has been transferred from the California High-Speed Rail Authority to the San Joaquin Regional Rail Commission.
Additional information about the project can be found at http://www.acerail.com/sjrrc/capitalprojects.aspx.
Environmental Review Process
The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) and the San Joaquin Regional Rail Commission (SJRRC) will jointly prepare an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) and Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for the ACEforward Program in compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA) and the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). The EIR/EIS will analyze proposed improvement and expansion of existing rail service between Stockton and San Jose, California, as well as extension of the rail service to Modesto and Merced, California. FRA and SJRRC are using a tiered process for the environmental review. Under this approach, the Tier-1 analysis evaluates the environmental impacts of a program of improvements at a conceptual level, while the Tier-2 analysis provides a more detailed evaluation of the impacts resulting from site-specific project components. The EIR/EIS for ACEforward will include both a Tier-1 and a Tier-2 analysis.
FRA has responsibility for overseeing the safety of railroad operations and may need to take certain regulatory action prior to operation of the new or expanded service. In addition, FRA is authorized to provide federal funding for intercity passenger rail capital investments and may provide financial assistance for the program in the future. FRA will serve as the federal lead agency for the preparation of the EIS. SJRRC will serve as the state lead agency for the preparation of the EIR.
Under CEQA a Notice of Preparation (NOP) was released on June 24, 2013. The full NOP can be reviewed HERE. FRA published a Notice of Intent to produce an EIS in the Federal Register on September 18, 2013. Scoping meetings were held in July 2013. The scoping process is complete and refinement of the project alternatives ongoing.