The Altamont Rail Corridor Project will develop a new dedicated regional passenger rail link within Northern California for joint use by regional intercity and commuter trains connecting between the northern San Joaquin Valley and the Bay Area as well as statewide intercity trains fully compatible with the 200+ mph system being developed by the California High-Speed Rail Authority (the Authority). The corridor, which follows portions of the transcontinental railway, is presently served by the Altamont Commuter Express (ACE) operated by the San Joaquin Regional Rail Commission (the Commission) and is eligible to receive California High-Speed Rail bond funds. The Authority and Commission have signed a Memorandum of Understanding to jointly develop the project which will greatly improve the existing service by providing a new dedicated passenger line separate from the Union Pacific Railroad over which the current ACE service operates. The strategic geographic location of the corridor within the Northern California network allows operation of a wide variety of services through Altamont Pass including commuter trains to the Bay Area, intercity corridor trains and regional intercity trains between Sacramento and San Jose` with the possibility that high-speed “bullet” trains from the statewide network could ultimately operate along the route. Although the shared-use potential broadens interest in the project, concomitant planning challenges include identifying workable, cost-effective solutions to incrementally develop the 80+ mile corridor over time while migrating the service presently provided by standard heavyweight diesel locomotive-drawn consists to a fully electrified, grade separated operation capable of supporting operation of 220+ mph lightweight trainsets.

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