The 21-16 Senate vote paved the way for about $8 billion in spending toward a high-speed rail system that envisions trains traveling at more than 200 mph between San Francisco and Sacramento in the north and Los Angeles in the south.
The Assembly approved the bill 52-38 earlier in the week, according to legislative records.
As of 5 p.m. Monday, Gov. Jerry Brown had not signed the bill into law, according to his website.
Included in the $8 billion are $3.2 billion in federal funds and $2.6 billion of $9.95 billion approved for high-speed rail by California voters in 2006. That money will help build the first section of track between Bakersfield and Madera in the southern portion of the San Joaquin Valley.
After that, the plan calls for building a line south over the Tehachapi Mountains toward Los Angeles.
About $1.1 billion was also set aside for “local assistance” to regional rail in Northern and Southern California, according to the law’s language.
While most of that money is destined for improving Los Angeles’ Metrolink and electrifying the Bay Area’s Caltrain, Altamont Commuter Express Executive Director Stacey Mortensen said some of it could benefit those who ride the rails from Tracy to the Tri Valley and Bay Area.
ACE has four trains each weekday whisking commuters between Stockton and San Jose, including a stop in Tracy off Linne Road and Tracy Boulevard. Mortensen said the funding could move up the local railway’s timeline for adding a fifth and sixth daily train from the 2020s to “maybe 2018.”
She said it’s better than waiting for the second phase of the high-speed build, “which may not come for many, many years.”
It also might help buy new trains for the BART system, which takes riders between Pleasanton and many East Bay stations and San Francisco. ACE connects to BART via a bus transfer in Pleasanton.
The money could come as an especial boon for ACE, Mortensen added.
Ridership so far in 2012 is up from the same time period in 2011 by 12 percent, Mortensen reported. And as the high-speed rail project in the southern stretch of the valley takes shape, she anticipates incremental increases in local demand.
Gas prices and an overburdened interstate system are also pushing more people to ride the rails, she said.
“Traffic conditions, especially (Interstate) 580 — 580 is really a bear,” she said. “People really get tired of battling that.”
While not related to the Legislature’s decision, Mortensen said local officials are still working with the High Speed Rail Authority to improve ACE travel time over the Altamont Pass, likely by acquiring or building new stretches of track.
One such improvement under discussion is a tunnel that would take 14 minutes off the Tracy-to-Livermore passage by avoiding a curvy section of track.
“But I think the price tag on that’s going to mean we’re going to have to wait,” Mortensen said.
She added that ACE is also trying to find a route that would bring trains to the Tracy Transit Station on Sixth Street and Central Avenue.
“There’s been a lot of consensus around the downtown site,” she said.
Two politicians who appear on the Nov. 6 ballot seeking to represent Tracy in the Senate cast Assembly votes July 5 regarding the project.
Democrat Cathleen Galgiani, who helped write the initial high-speed rail legislation, voted in favor, calling it a job-creator and step forward.
Republican Bill Berryhill voted against.
"It's about priorities, and right now this should not be a priority for California,” he said in a media release.
Both are running for the 5th Senate District, which covers Tracy, Mountain House and the rest of San Joaquin County.