Frequently Asked Questions
What is the South Bay Connect Project?
The proposed South Bay Connect project proposes to relocate the Capitol Corridor passenger rail service between the Oakland Coliseum and Newark from the Union Pacific Railroad (UP) Niles Subdivision rail line to the Coast Subdivision rail line. It also proposes to create new transbay connections for Capitol Corridor passengers between the East Bay and the Peninsula, which has been identified as an underserved market for Capitol Corridor in previous studies. While the project is not proposing an increase in Capitol Corridor service frequency, it does not preclude service growth in the future.
Who is leading this project?
Capitol Corridor Joint Powers Authority (CCJPA) is the lead agency working in partnership with Caltrans, Union Pacific Railroad, Alameda County Transportation Commission, Metropolitan Transportation Commission and the Cities of Hayward, Union City, Fremont and Newark.
Why is this project needed?
Within the East Bay project area, there are three rail lines running north/south and two running east/west. The rail lines, owned by Union Pacific Railroad (UP), are utilized for freight rail and three passenger rail services [Capitol Corridor, Altamont Corridor Express (ACE) and Amtrak Coast Starlight]. Due to existing railroad infrastructure, the majority of freight and Capitol Corridor trains must travel out of direction before heading to their desired destinations (Central Valley for freight trains and Silicon Valley for Capitol Corridor trains). South Bay Connect was identified within numerous local, regional and statewide studies (ex. Capitol Corridor 2016 Vision Implementation Plan and the 2018 California State Rail Plan) as one of several transportation improvement projects that will improve freight and passenger rail safety and efficiency in the Northern California Megaregion. As the only transit service that directly connects the Greater Sacramento region to the Bay Area and Silicon Valley, Capitol Corridor provides essential access and travel option to driving on congested freeways in the Megaregion.
Which studies identified the need for this project?
South Bay Connect service route was listed within Capitol Corridor Joint Powers Authority’s (CCJPA) 2014 Vision Plan Update and 2016 Vision Implementation Plan, as well as in the 2018 California State Rail Plan and in Plan Bay Area 2040. The project's rail improvements are also consistent with the Alameda County Transportation Commission (Alameda CTC) 2016 Goods Movement Plan, Alameda CTC’s Countywide Transit Plan and 2018 Rail Safety Enhancement Program, the 2017 Dumbarton Transportation Corridor Study, and Dumbarton Forward Design Alternatives Assessment. The collective plans establish a clear roadmap for Capitol Corridor that identifies service improvements to be implemented over time.
What benefits will Capitol Corridor Route Relocation provide?
The relocation will not only improve operations for both freight and passenger rail services by providing more direct routes and reduced travel times, it will enhance connectivity to the megaregional transportation network connecting jobs to affordable housing. The project will also improve air quality and promote sustainability by reducing train idling and vehicular miles traveled as passengers shift their commuting mode of choice from use of congested freeways towards a convenient and connected multi-modal transit network.
Even though transit ridership, including that on the Capitol Corridor, has significantly declined due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we anticipate that the need for this project will still be relevant in a post-pandemic future. The need to improve rail transit, decrease congestion, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and offer convenient, non-auto alternatives for people to travel within the Northern California Megaregion will persist beyond today’s challenging times.
How will South Bay Connect create transbay connections?
The proposed Ardenwood Station at the Park & Ride near State Route 84 will provide a direct connection and transfer opportunity to transbay bus services that link Alameda County to San Mateo and western Santa Clara counties including the Dumbarton Express, AC Transit U Line, Stanford shuttles, and numerous employee shuttles. On the average weekday, 125 buses and shuttles stop at the Ardenwood Park & Ride. This critical transbay link was identified in Capitol Corridor Joint Powers Authority Service Optimization work as the largest unrealized connection in the Capitol Corridor system.
How does relocating the Capitol Corridor Route improve operations?
Due to limited connections between the existing East Bay rail lines, freight trains with destinations to the east must first head west from Oakland along the Coast Subdivision line before turning east in Newark to cross the Centerville line toward Niles Canyon. Capitol Corridor trains headed to San Jose from Oakland must travel on the Niles Subdivision line crossing Centerville to Newark before heading south on the Coast Subdivision line. Altamont Corridor Express (ACE) service also uses the Centerville line, making it a highly congested corridor with several at-grade crossings within Central Fremont.
South Bay Connect will create a more direct route for Capitol Corridor trains between Oakland and San Jose, eliminating Capitol Corridor’s need to cross Centerville. Freight trains will be able to travel east more directly through new railroad infrastructure connections along the Niles Subdivision and near Niles Canyon. These new potential routes will increase efficiency, minimize train congestion and facilitate the separation of freight and passenger rail service which can support more efficient operations of freight and passenger rail services in the future.
What rail infrastructure upgrades are included with this project?
As part of South Bay Connect, CCJPA is working closely with Union Pacific (UP) to identify railroad improvements within the project area on the Coast Subdivision line to bring it up to the Federal Railroad Administration’s (FRA’s) Class 5 standards. Railroad upgrades will also be included on the Niles and Oakland Subdivision lines to allow UP freight trains going to Central Valley to travel a more direct route south on the Niles Subdivision line, shifting east via a new rail connection near Niles Junction in the Shinn area. Rail improvements as part of South Bay Connect may include:
- Rail track and rail tie replacements
- Installation of new signal technology
- Right-of-way safety and security modifications such as fencing
- New sidings or passing tracks to reduce train idling
- At-grade crossing safety improvements
- New Niles and Oakland Subdivision connection near Industrial Parkway
- Grade separation at Industrial Parkway
- New freight rail connection near Niles Junction
Which rail services utilize the coast subdivision today?
The Coast Subdivision line between Oakland and Newark is currently utilized primary by Union Pacific freight trains, which run at various frequencies and times day and night, and the Amtrak Coast Starlight runs two daily trains on the Coast Subdivision today.
Will both passenger and freight trains continue to use the coast subdivision?
The goal is to facilitate the separation of passenger and freight trains for improved overall operations, with Capitol Corridor and Amtrak Coast Starlight utilizing the Coast Subdivision line and Union Pacific Railroad (UP) utilizing the Niles and Oakland Subdivision lines for the majority of freight movement. However, UP will continue to own the railroad right-of-way and may choose to continue to operate freight trains on the Coast Subdivision line at their discretion.
What are the differences between freight and passenger rail train operations?
Freight trains can vary greatly in weight depending on length, type of cargo, and amount of cargo loaded. A typical weight range might be 5,000 to 10,000 tons with extreme examples outside of this range. Freight trains can be over a mile long, and due to length and weight generally travel at slower speeds within urban corridors which can result in noise, vibration and delays for local travel near at-grade crossings. Union Pacific Railroad (UP), like other private freight companies, operate service as the market demands, so daily train counts and hours of operation vary. Freight rail activity generally reflects overall market conditions and business demands for goods.
As for the length of passenger trains, Capitol Corridor trains are typically five cars, the Altamont Corridor Express (ACE) trains are seven cars and the Amtrak Starlight trains are 10 cars. A Capitol Corridor passenger train weighs between 511 to 710 tons depending on specific train equipment and number of passengers onboard and can go up to 79 miles per hour within the project area, causing less noise, vibration and delays at local at-grade crossings compared to freight trains. Capitol Corridor service operates seven round trips daily (pre-COVID-19 schedule) between Oakland and San Jose.
What happens to the existing stations along the current capitol corridor route between Oakland and San Jose?
The route change would discontinue Capitol Corridor service at the Hayward and Fremont-Centerville Stations while proposing a new passenger rail station at the existing Ardenwood Park & Ride on the Coast Subdivision line that will provide a much-needed intermodal transbay connection to bus services between the East Bay and Peninsula. The Fremont-Centerville station will continue to be served by Altamont Corridor Express (ACE).
How many passengers currently access the Hayward and Fremont-Centerville stations?
The combined ridership at Hayward and Fremont Stations account for about 3% of the total Capitol Corridor train ridership for the entire system.
Is the Ardenwood Station the only station being considered on the new route?
Several station options were put through an early screening process to determine feasible and constructible solutions and the Ardenwood Station in Fremont was identified as the most feasible solution to serve the communities and create a seamless connection to bus service routes. To learn more about the Station evaluation process, view the Project Definition Report in the Project Documents section of this page.
|Proposed New Station and Potential Station Area|
|Potential Station Considered and Eliminated|
|Station where CC Service to be Discontinued|
|Proposed Capitol Corridor (CC) Service|
|Existing CC Service|
|CC Service to be Discontinued|
|UP Improvement Area|
What features will the Ardenwood Station include?
Capitol Corridor stations typically have platforms, parking, and multi-modal access for vehicles, pedestrians, bicyclists and buses. A pedestrian bridge is proposed to be included for the Ardenwood Station that will allow safe access from a parking lot to the train platform. The Ardenwood Station will be better connected to the City of Fremont’s planned bicycle facilities.
The 2019 Capitol Corridor Station Policy describes the following required station elements:
- 800-foot long platforms with eight-inch top of rail clearance
- Passenger access that does not cross a mainline track at-grade.
- Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) access and egress standards.
Further details of the Ardenwood Station will be identified as the project moves forward.
Will this project provide enough parking spaces for train passengers?
Providing additional parking at the Ardenwood Station is part of the project, however, the specific additional capacity will be determined through ridership modeling as part of this current phase of work.
Will the proposed Ardenwood Station add new at-grade crossings of the rail line?
No, this project is not proposing to add new at-grade crossings at the Ardenwood Station.
The Fremont/Ardenwood area is a quiet neighborhood today, how would this project address increased noise pollution, traffic congestion, and other safety considerations surrounding the proposed new station?
As part of the environmental analysis and review, these areas of concern, along with many others such as air quality, aesthetics, and biology will be addressed within the Draft Environmental Impact Report with appropriate mitigation measures identified to minimize impacts as a result of the proposed project. A full list of environmental resource areas that will be studied as part of the review can be found on the website under Environmental Planning.
Will the project include quiet zones?
Quiet Zones could be a part of a future identified mitigation measure should noise be identified as an impact. However, Quiet Zones are federally regulated by the Federal Railroad Administration and negotiated between the local municipality and the track owner, so CCJPA would not be directly involved in the implementation of a Quiet Zone.
How will this project influence property values along the coast subdivision?
The economic effects of the project will be considered as part of the analysis, including property values, during the Environmental Impact Report (EIR) process. However, property values are market-driven and cannot be adequately quantified through this EIR process.
I live next to the coast subdivision tracks, how many more trains would be expected daily along this rail line?
This project would result in up to 14 Capitol Corridor passenger trains daily on the Coast Subdivision line, the same train frequency as the pre-COVID Capitol Corridor schedule. While we cannot control how Union Pacific Railroad (UP) operates, the project will improve rail infrastructure allowing UP freight trains to travel east more efficiently from the Niles Subdivision via new connections to access Niles Canyon.
How will this new travel route for passenger rail connect to other rail networks, transportation hubs (e.g, BART, ACE, Dumbarton)?
Capitol Corridor is working collaboratively with transit agencies and stakeholders along the corridor to optimize connectivity to existing and future transit services. New connections to existing transbay bus and shuttle services will be made possible at the proposed Ardenwood Station, and Capitol Corridor will continue to connect to Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) at Richmond, Oakland Coliseum and again at the future BART Diridon Station. Altamont Corridor Express (ACE) regional commuter rail service, connecting the Central Valley to the Bay Area, will continue to stop in Fremont. ACE service connects with Capitol Corridor at Santa Clara-Great America, Santa Clara-University and at San Jose-Diridon stations. CCJPA will continue to coordinate with ongoing Dumbarton rail planning efforts, which are currently unclear on station locations in the East Bay.
How will this project address the potential impact on wildlife in the surrounding area and the Coyote Hills region?
This concern and resource area along with many others listed on the website under Environmental Planning, will be analyzed during the environmental process and addressed in the Draft Environmental Impact Report.
How much would the project cost and how will it be funded?
The estimated cost for the project is approximately $264 million. Funding is already committed for the environmental analysis and design phases and would cover half of the estimated construction costs. Funding has come from multiple State, Regional, and Local sources including: Caltrans State Transportation Improvement Program (STIP), California State Transportation Agency’s State Rail Assistance (SRA), the Metropolitan Transportation Commission’s Regional Measure 3 (RM3) and Alameda County Transportation Commission’s Measure BB.
How will the project evolve alongside COVID-19 and the everchanging lifestyle changes that are emerging?
Even though transit ridership, including that on the Capitol Corridor, has significantly declined due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we anticipate that the need for this project will still be relevant in a post-pandemic future. The need for improved rail transit, congestion relief, reduction of regional greenhouse gas emissions, and convenient, non-auto travel alternatives for people within the Northern California Megaregion will persist beyond today’s challenging times.
What is the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA)?
CEQA is a California statute that was passed in 1970 shortly after the United States federal government passed the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). CEQA institutes a statewide policy of environmental protection. The purpose of CEQA is to disclose to the public the significant environmental effects of a proposed discretionary project through the preparation of an Environmental Impact Report. View the CEQA steps
What happens during the preparation of the Environmental Impact Report?
The Environmental Impact Report (EIR) will assess the potential environmental impacts of the proposed Project on the physical, human, and natural environment. A wide variety of resource areas will be studied during the environmental review to identify potential impacts and among them, water resources including flood plains.
Measures to avoid, minimize, and mitigate any potential adverse impacts will be identified and evaluated in the EIR. During this environmental assessment phase, there will also be multiple points for public engagement, such as during the Public Scoping Period after the Notice of Preparation is issued and the Public Comment Period after the Draft EIR is released.
When would this project be constructed and what is the overarching planning schedule?
If the Final Environmental Impact Report is approved and adopted by the CCJPA Board, it would not be constructed until early 2024. Construction would most likely take two years to complete with service opening late 2026 or early 2027. The current phase of planning began in January 2019 and will extend through December 2021 when the Final Environmental Impact Report is estimated to be ready for review and approval by the CCJPA Board. Final Design is slated to take approximately two years and be complete by the end of 2023.
How can the public participate in the planning effort?
During this time of social distancing, we have provided multiple convenient and safe ways for public engagement in this project, you can provide your comments on the project:
- Through the project website at www.southbayconnect.com
- Calling the project informational hotline at (510) 244-3667
- Send an email to email@example.com
- ubmit a formal letter to CCJPA at 300 Lakeside Drive, 14th Floor East, Oakland CA 94612.
During this environmental phase, there will be multiple points for public engagement, such as during the Public Scoping Period after the Notice of Preparation is issued and the Public Comment Period after the Draft Environmental Impact Report is released.