Modesto is being snubbed as transportation officials lay ambitious plans for electric trains linking the valley to the Bay Area, a city councilman says.
State leaders courted Stanislaus County votes when pushing a high-speed rail bond a year ago. And a map showing a possible metamorphosis for Altamont Commuter Express trains shows potential spurs to either downtown Modesto or the Amtrak station east of town.
But the consortium gathering public input scheduled no town hall meetings east of Stockton.
"Is there a reason Modesto and Stanislaus County were excluded?" said Modesto Councilman Garrad Marsh in a letter to the Altamont Corridor Rail Project. Previous promises have been reduced to "only a 'possibility'," Marsh said.
"It will be hard to convince the people of Modesto that a link to the Bay Area was anything more than an afterthought," he said, unless sponsors reconsider and schedule a meeting in Modesto.
That's not likely. Meetings were held this week in Livermore and Stockton with the final two sessions scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday, respectively, in Fremont and San Jose.
Supporters hope to replace diesel locomotives lumbering at no more than 79 mph with electric trains that could reach 150 mph. Trips from Stockton to San Jose taking two hours and 10 minutes could be shaved to as little as 55 minutes, sponsors say.
About 350 passengers from Stanislaus County catch ACE trains on weekdays at stops in Lathrop and Tracy.
The system could tie in neatly to even faster, 220-mph bullet trains speeding from San Francisco to Southern California. Voters statewide approved $9.9 billion in seed money last year, though the bond captured just 49 percent support in Stanislaus County.
Promotional literature for the current public sessions say, "The critical next step is you! We can't get this off the drawing board — or create a truly community-serving project — without active involvement of local residents."
But Modestans have to travel to make their voices heard in person. A press release on the sessions says, "Later, a branch out to Modesto may also be a possibility."
Bee staff writer Garth Stapley can be reached at email@example.com or 578-2390.