The Tri-Valley/San Joaquin Valley Regional Rail Authority announced earlier this month that the Federal Transit Administration has approved entry of the Valley Link rail project Phase 1 into project development of the Capital Investment Grants program.
"Acceptance of Valley Link into the CIG program marks a key milestone in advancing this transformational project forward," said Veronica Vargas, chair of the transit authority board of directors in a statement. "This is the first, but critical step, in positioning Valley Link to compete for federal funding during a time when once-in-a generation transit funding is available on the federal level."
The 26-mile first phase of the project between the Dublin-Pleasanton BART Station in Alameda County and the Mountain House station in San Joaquin County, would connect tens of thousands of Northern San Joaquin Valley workers to the Tri-Valley, according to transit authority officials. The phase, including the Isabel and South Front Road stations in Livermore, is targeted for construction in 2025.
"I am so pleased that the Tri-Valley cities' Valley Link project was approved by the Federal Transit Administration. This will start the process for designing and operating a critical link between BART and the Altamont Corridor Express," U.S. Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Livermore) said in a statement.
"Approval of this project could translate to 30,000 fewer cars on the road each day. By reducing congestion and improving air quality, this would be the biggest climate rescue project ever in the Tri-Valley," he added.
Swalwell said that connecting BART to ACE has been among his "top priorities" since entering Congress. Last year, he helped secure from the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee $20 million for Valley Link in its transportation spending bill.
The FTA approval of Valley Link into the CIG pipeline follows the March 23 unanimous adoption of Valley Link as part of the regional project priorities for the CIG program by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, the transportation planning, financing and coordinating agency for the nine-county Bay Area.
The full Valley Link rail project proposes to add a new 42-mile, seven station rail connection between the Dublin-Pleasanton BART Station and the North Lathrop ACE Station in San Joaquin County with all day service on BART frequencies during peak periods. The rail system is projected to provide an estimated 33,000 daily rides in 2040.
While project advancements continue, Valley Link is also currently in litigation.
Last month, the Alameda County Taxpayers' Association and the Transportation Solutions Defense and Education Fund filed a lawsuit to stop the project's development, citing a number of concerns including allegations that the Alameda County Transportation Commission illegally shifted $400 million in 2014 Measure BB sales tax funds to Valley Link from the canceled BART to Livermore extension project and that the MTC is illegally funding Valley Link with bridge tolls that are supposed to pay for seismic retrofits.
Valley Link Executive Director Kevin Sheridan called the lawsuit "without merit" and said it "mischaracterizes" the project.
The next hearing for the case is set for early September.