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High Speed Train Talks Begin
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High speed trains - or at least some talks on them - are coming to this area.

At a recent Riverbank City Council meeting, publicist Mike Lynch spoke about a coming public meeting in Modesto on the proposed environmental impact report for the Merced to Sacramento route and volunteered to appear again before council with more information.

The first local meeting is slated for Thursday, Jan. 28 from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the Modesto Center Plaza, 1000 L St., Modesto.

The proposed system would have trains traveling at up to 220 mph and carrying upwards of 41 million passengers a year by 2035 between Los Angeles and San Francisco, with other service routes reaching to San Diego in the south and Sacramento in the north.

The California High Speed Rail Authority anticipates offering service in 2020 from Los Angeles to San Francisco with the Sacramento to Merced route becoming available a few years later.

The Authority is now assessing two potential alignments through the northern Central Valley; the Eastern Union Pacific Company's route that passes through Stockton, Modesto and Merced; and the Burlington Northern & Santa Fe route that passes through Stockton, Riverbank, Eastern Modesto and Merced.

The draft EIR's notice of preparation said the Amtrak station on Briggsmore Avenue in Modesto will be evaluated and suggests "alternative station sites at or near the selected station locations my be identified and evaluated."

Riverbank Chamber of Commerce officials note the Modesto Amtrak station was actually located in Riverbank until 1999. City staff with the support of the Sun Garden-Gangi Cannery site owners would like to make a case for Riverbank to be considered for the station along with Modesto. They suggest the future station be located at the cannery site here instead of in eastern Modesto, a move that would bring significant economic opportunities to the downtown and Riverbank as a whole.

Among the benefits, according to an Authority brochure, are:

• The project will be built on dedicated right of way, safely separated from cars and trucks, pedestrians and other rail traffic.

• Use only a fraction of the energy used by automobiles and airplanes.

• Help free California from dependence on fossil fuels and reduce the greenhouse gases that cause global warming.

• Reduce road traffic by up to 50 million auto trips per year.

• Create an additional 600,000 jobs as a result of general economic growth.

• Provide better connections, offer a safer, time and cost efficient alternative to automobiles, and help relieve overcrowding at major airports.

For more information on the project visit

To comment on the plan, (deadline Feb. 26) write to Dan Leavitt, Deputy Director of Merced to Sacramento California High Speed Rail Authority, 925 L Street, Suite 1425, Sacramento, CA 95814 or e-mail with the subject line Merced to Sacramento HST.