Bullet Rail: Planned Amtrak Station Move to Madera, California

When the California High-Speed ​​​​Rail Authority last week approved the request for companies to plan and design four high-speed rail stations along the future interim operating line between Merced and Bakersfield, a location which was not part of the package was a connection station in Madeira.

A Madera station was first introduced in the rail authority’s 2016 business plan after local leaders complained the community needed to be little more than a “flyover” area for commuters. high-speed trains crossing the valley between Fresno and Merced.

In the 2022 business plan, adopted by the rail authority’s board of directors last week, Madera is still on the books for a station – just not as elaborate as planned for Fresno, Merced, Hanford or Bakersfield.

Instead, the San Joaquin Joint Powers Authority, which oversees administration of Amtrak San Joaquin trains that traverse the valley between Bakersfield and Stockton, is postponing the process of move existing Amtrak station from Madera and modernize it to handle future high-speed rail traffic.

Madera Amtrak Station is now along the BNSF railroad tracks near Route 26 north of Madera. Under plans approved last year, the San Joaquin JPA will move the facility approximately 7 1/2 miles, between 12th and 13th Avenues, not far from Madera Community College Center in southeast Madera.

When it opens, slated for 2024, the new station will be where passengers on Amtrak trains can connect with bus services to nearby communities. When high-speed rail service begins, now expected in 2029 or 2030, Amtrak’s San Joaquin trains would no longer stop at Madera, instead continuing to Merced for connections to high-speed rail and other services from train and bus.

As many as 18 high-speed trains would serve Madera’s stations daily and feed its bus connections.

“The existing Madera San Joaquins station, which is nearly three miles north of Madera, has extremely low ridership and lacks connecting bus service in the area due to its location,” an outline of the project reads. . The Avenue 12 location, he adds, “will better meet regional goals of improving traffic and connectivity.”

Benefits of the Avenue 12 site include that it is already a primary transportation corridor in Madera County and provides good access to Highway 99 with an Avenue 12 interchange recently upgraded. It should also adapt better to growing in southeast Madera County and northern Fresno County.

Maps of Madera Amtrak.JPG
Preliminary plans for relocating the Madera Amtrak station near 13th Avenue along the BNSF tracks include a boarding platform, parking lot, restroom and station maintenance building, and depot of bus. SAN JOAQUIN JOINT POWERS AUTHORITY

the environmental review completed last year for the relocation project estimates Amtrak ridership at Madera Station — currently the second-lowest on the San Joaquins line from Bakersfield south to Stockton, Oakland and Sacramento — could more than double at Avenue 12 to more than 103,000 “on/off” actions (embarkations and landings) in 2025, compared to just over 40,000 in a 2025 scenario in which the station remains where it is.

In 2019, the most recent full year before the COVID-19 pandemic reduced train ridership on the San Joaquins line, Madera Station on Route 26 had just over 27,000 start/stop actions , or about 75 per day.

In 2018, the California State Transportation Agency awarded over $26 million to San Joaquin JPA for Madera Station relocation efforts.

Development and construction costs in 2020 were expected to be approximately $24.9 million for Phase 1 to handle only Amtrak operations with a passenger boarding platform, building with restrooms and ATMs, parking and parking area for transfer buses.

The cost of a Phase 2 expansion to accommodate future high-speed rail operations is expected to be around $130 million, said Dan Leavitt, regional initiatives manager for the San Joaquin APP.

“The proposed improvements to the fast train would not increase service beyond interim operations (between Merced and Bakersfield),” according to the environmental review. But, he adds, “the improvements could be extended and would not preclude any future expansion of the station moved to Madera by (the state’s high-speed rail agency) needed to accommodate expanded service” at beyond the San Joaquin Valley.

Last month, Madera County received a $450,000 planning grant from the California Department of Transportation to develop a broader transportation plan to allow for a clearer view of transit options and community-oriented development. public transit along the 12th Avenue area in Madera County.

Leavitt told The Fresno Bee on Monday that his agency was working with Caltrans to apply to the federal government for a “mega grant” to help defray the cost of the Phase 2 station expansion in Madera. The two agencies hope to secure about 60% of the $130 million cost of President Joe Biden’s infrastructure package for the station, with the state matching the remaining 40% of the cost.

The joint application must be submitted to the federal government by May 23, Leavitt added.

This story was originally published May 3, 2022 5:00 a.m.

Lifelong Valley resident Tim Sheehan has worked as a reporter and editor in the area since 1986 and has worked for The Fresno Bee since 1998. He is currently The Bee’s data reporter and also covers the California High Speed ​​Rail Project and other transportation issues. He grew up in Madera, has a degree in journalism from Fresno State and a master’s degree in leadership studies from Fresno Pacific University.
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Jose P. Rogers