Caltrain rail-tunnel project runs short of needed funds

The lack of state monies to fund a high-speed rail system from Los Angeles to San Francisco could stall Caltrain's arrival at the much-anticipated Transbay Terminal until 2021.

The yet-to-be built transit center at First and Mission streets, which some say will be the Grand Central Station of the West, with bus, BART, Caltrain and high-speed rail service, is expected to cost about $3.4 billion. Only around $1.5 billion of that funding is accounted for, said Maria Ayerdi, director of the Transbay Joint Powers Authority.

Much of the money needed to extend the Caltrain line from its current terminal at Fourth and Townsend to First and Mission streets via a 1.3-mile tunnel was expected to come from a high-speed rail project that would also stop at the terminal. Sacramento lawmakers, however, have delayed until2008 a $9.95 billion bond initiative to fund the trains designed to travel between Los Angeles and San Francisco in 2.5 hours.

To keep the terminal project moving, the Transbay Joint Authority board has decided to build the transit hub first and bring Caltrain downtown later.

The dilapidated bus station is scheduled to begin its transformation in 2008 into a transit jewel surrounded by 3,400 new homes, office and retail space, parks and open space and a 1,000-foot tower, the tallest in the Bay Area.

“The choice is obvious,” said Randy Rentschler, a spokesman for the Metropolitan Transportation Commission. “They build the terminal and prepare for Caltrain.”

The other alternative is building the expensive Caltrain tunnel at the expense of the whole terminal, Rentschler said.

Half of the transbay budget, about $1.7 billion, is earmarked to cover the cost of the Caltrain tunnel, construction of which could start in 2012 or sooner. That leaves the Caltrain extension looking for other funding sources.

For years, there's been paranoia about the commuter rail not reaching the new transit hub, despite a 1999 mandate from city voters putting the extension into law, said Jim Chappell, president of the San Francisco Planning and Urban Research Association.

“The City has been slow on the uptake but The City is now focused on it,” Chappell said.

Despite the current financial shortfall, Transbay enthusiasts say Caltrain will extend downtown, even before 2021. Caltrain officials have committed to serving the terminal once it has been built.

“If there's a will, there's a way,” Ayerdi said. “We're working hard to identify funding sources” to make it happen.

mcarroll@examiner.com

Bay Area NewsLocal

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

District Attorney Chesa Boudin announces charges against former SFPD Officer Christopher Samoyoa in the 2017 fatal shooting of Keita O’Neill at a press conference outside the Hall of Justice on Monday, Nov. 23, 2020. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
DA Boudin charges fired SFPD officer with manslaughter over fatal shooting

Ex-Officer Christopher Samayoa to face criminal charges in killing of Keita O’Neil

The area near the Castro Muni Metro Station is expected to be affected by construction work on the Twin Peaks Tunnel, with lane closures on Market Street and some loss of parking. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
Construction on Twin Peaks Tunnel to begin November 30

Area around Castro Muni Station will see greatest impacts including lane closures on Market Street

(Genaro Molina/Pool/Los Angeles Times/TNS)
Newsom calls latest surge of COVID-19 cases ‘unprecendented’

By Eli Walsh Bay City News Foundation California’s latest surge of COVID-19… Continue reading

Dr. Barbara Ferrer, director of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, during a news conference on March 10, 2020. (Myung J. Chun/Los Angeles Times/TNS)
LA County suspends outdoor dining at restaurants as coronavirus surges

By Alex Wigglesworth Los Angeles Times Los Angeles County public health officials… Continue reading

Renderings of the main entrance to upcoming Mission Bay elementary school on Owens Street. (Courtesy photo)
SFUSD offers first look at planned Mission Bay elementary school

San Francisco school officials this month unveiled the design of a planned… Continue reading

Most Read