Pro­posed light-rail link­ing Lathrop, BART takes step for­ward

Lodi News-Sentinel - - PAGE TWO - By Roger Phillips

Maral Ben­ham-Garcia, a Tracy res­i­dent, be­comes emo­tional as she dis­cusses the tra­vails of her daily com­mute to San Fran­cisco, which begins amid a sea of red lights head­ing west­bound over the Al­ta­mont Pass.

“Every­one I know is mak­ing this drive,” Ben­ham-Garcia says. “When I talk to peo­ple, they tell me I’m crazy, like, it’s just nuts.”

Ben­ham-Garcia tells her story on a video pro­duced by the Tri-Val­ley-San Joaquin Val­ley Re­gional Rail Author­ity’s Val­ley Link project.

For Ben­ham-Garcia and many of the other 79,999 peo­ple who make the daily com­mute over the Al­ta­mont to jobs in the Bay Area, Val­ley Link could be a life-changer.

It’s a pro­posed light-rail sys­tem that by 2024 would con­nect com­muters from Lathrop, Tracy and Moun­tain House with the Dublin/Pleasan­ton BART sta­tion.

A few years af­ter the ini­tial seg­ment opens, the aim is for the Val­ley Link rail line to add a stop at Stock­ton’s Al­ta­mont Cor­ri­dor Ex­press sta­tion.

“This is a unique mega-re­gion rail project,” Tracy Coun­cil­woman Veron­ica Var­gas, who serves on the Val­ley Link board, said Mon­day. “Pol­i­cy­mak­ers are work­ing to­gether to ad­dress our mu­tual and ur­gent needs. This is a vi­tal rail link. It will help the en­vi­ron­ment, it will help peo­ple, and it will help eco­nomic vi­tal­ity.”

In late 2017, then-Gov. Jerry Brown signed As­sem­bly Bill 758, co-au­thored by Assem­bly­women Su­san Eg­gman, DS­tock­ton, and Catharine Baker, a Repub­li­can whose district in­cluded Liver­more, Pleasan­ton and Dublin. Baker is no longer in of­fice.

AB 758 es­tab­lished the TriVal­ley-San Joaquin Val­ley Re­gional Rail Author­ity and re­quires the author­ity to pro­vide a project fea­si­bil­ity re­port to the pub­lic by July 1, 2019. The 840-page fea­si­bil­ity re­port is avail­able on­line. A pub­lic meet­ing to re­lease the re­port is sched­uled at 2 p.m. Wed­nes­day at Tracy City Hall, 333 Civic Cen­ter Plaza.

The pro­jected cost for the 41mile stretch from Lathrop to BART is $1.8 bil­lion. The money would come from nu­mer­ous ex­ist­ing fund­ing sources, ac­cord­ing to Val­ley Link, in­clud­ing diesel taxes, state and fed­eral grants and high-speed rail dol­lars.

There’s no deny­ing it’s an ex­pen­sive propo­si­tion. But, ac­cord­ing to Var­gas, a pre­vi­ous plan to ex­tend BART five miles east was pro­jected to cost $1.6 bil­lion.

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