Future of S.F. transit hub faces vote today

The multibillion dollar Transbay Terminal project that could change Bay Area transportation forever is poised for approval today despite a $2 billion shortfall.

The $4 billion Transbay rebuild of the aging terminal at Mission and First streets would put under one roof regional buses, BART, Muni and Caltrain in the South of Market area. It is also slated to bring high-speed rail to Northern California — making a trip between Los Angeles and San Francisco only two hours.

The Transbay Joint Powers Authority board is expected to approve moving forward with building the $1 billion Transbay Terminal, while holding off on the more expensive high-speed rail project until more funding is found.

The project suffered a setback in February when it became clear that the state’s high-speed bond measure, which would have generated nearly $500 million for the project, was not going to come before voters in November.

Transbay board members are optimistic that moving forward with the terminal will result in funding for the high-speed rail portion of the project.

“The most important thing when it comes to funding a project of this scale is persistence,” said Supervisor Chris Daly, who sits on the Transbay board.

A working group spent eight weeks exploring other revenue sources and last week presented a revised plan to the Transbay board that identified an extra $160 million to $260 million in funding if height limits in the 40-acre redevelopment area surrounding the terminal were relaxed.

The group proposed building two towers at least 850 feet high and a 1,000-foot Transit Tower, adjacent to the terminal. The Transit Tower would be one of the tallest buildings on the West Coast.

With the possibility of a new revenue source, Transbay board members seem to have reached a consensus on moving forward on the terminal, while waiting to build the high-speed rail part of the project when the needed $2 billion comes in.

“The Transbay project together with all the developments it will facilitate is clearly one of the biggest and most important projects in The City today and in the future,” Transbay board member Michael Cohen said.

With today’s approval, construction of the Transbay Terminal could begin in 2008.

jsabatini@examiner.com

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