OAKLEY—Antioch’s Amtrak train stop will be coming to an end. Antioch’s loss is Oakley’s future.
Concerned by the rising number of assaults on Amtrak personnel in Antioch where the city’s train station was demolished in 2019, the San Joaquin Joint Powers Authority (JPA) voted 6-1 on Friday, March 24, to decommission the Antioch stop.
Tamika Smith, the JPA director of rail services, told her board that the Antioch stop had produced 69 police calls of service between January 2021 and December 2022. Those included several assaults on Amtrak personnel mostly due to problems with the homeless community that had sprung up around the location across the street from City Hall.
“Our staffers are being assaulted,” Amtrak Police Inspector Doug Calcagno said.
As a result, the train stops to open only one door to board passengers. Smith’s presentation displayed a photo of the former station’s roof where a homeless person had set up a tent as living quarters.
Smith also noted that in December 2022, unhoused persons were camped inside the shelter; Amtrak staff requested they vacate. When staff returned later, the individuals had stolen the wheelchair lift valued at $11,000. Since then, passengers who use a wheelchair were forced to board in either Martinez or Stockton.
The city demolished the structure in August 2019. Passengers waiting to board the train must stand in the open next to a crossing gate.
Despite an impassioned plea from Antioch Mayor Lamar Thorpe, who attended the meeting to oppose the move, the board voted 6-2 to award the stop to Oakley. That city is constructing a new train platform now that it expects to finish by the third quarter of 2024, according to City Manager Josh McMurray.
Thorpe insisted that he “didn’t know anything about this” and repeatedly blamed the then-city manager, Ron Bernal, for taking down the train station. Bernal retired from his Antioch post in December 2021. Smith noted during the meeting that JPA staff had been discussing the train stop issue with Antioch City Manager Cornelius Johnson for about a year. The Antioch City Council placed Johnson on administrative leave on March 17.
Thorpe told the board that his program of police reforms and mental health crisis teams had brought down crime rates dramatically in Antioch, which he called “the epicenter of East County.” Going through the city’s history as a “sundown city” where persons of color “were not welcomed,” the mayor said Antioch was “white by design in the 1990s.”
He called the decommissioning decision “a knee-jerk reaction” that will “discriminate against people of color.”
Representing Oakley in supporting the switch to their under-construction train platform were Oakley Public Works Director Kevin Rohani and former mayor Kevin Romick. County Supervisor Diane Burgis, who sits on the JPA board, also spoke in support of the Oakley site.
“Oakley has stepped up” to fill the need, Burgis said, emphasizing the added parking and easier public access at the new site, which is about 7 miles from the Antioch stop.
Following the meeting, Burgis stated via email, “East County as a region is growing fast, and needs a modern Amtrak station with parking, safety and full capabilities. The City of Oakley has invested $6 million and worked nearly a decade with the San Joaquin JPA to plan their station and begin construction, while the City of Antioch has been in agreement to close their station for the past several years. The San Joaquin JPA vote was important to keep Oakley’s development on the right track and not throw our region’s transportation off the rails.”
Oakley City Manager Josh McMurray also added Monday, “The city has been working towards the development of the Downtown train platform project for a decade. We are very appreciative for our partners who have worked side by side with us, including the San Joaquin Joint Powers Authority, and look forward to the completion and opening of the Oakley train platform.”
The new 700‐foot‐long train station platform will be located behind Main Street between Second Street and Norcross Lane and will include a 300-space parking lot. Once complete, Oakley commuters will be able to get from downtown Oakley to downtown Oakland in less than an hour, according to Amtrak projections.
The JPA secured an $8.6 million grant composed of state and federal money to pay for the platform, with the city agreeing to fund the roadway design and construction, parking lot and adjacent public infrastructure. The JPA estimates 10 daily trains will serve the station – five westbound toward Oakland and five eastbound toward Bakersfield. Annual ridership numbers are expected to range between 35,000 and 52,000 in 2025.
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