Menlo Park could be new hub for East Bay commuters

An unused stretch of train tracks on the Caltrain corridor could someday be home to a train station, new housing and amenities within walking distance of local office parks and the Sun Microsystems campus.

As part of the Dumbarton Rail plan, which would shuttle commuters from the East Bay to Redwood City and beyond, Menlo Park is studying how to make a proposed new train station viable. The station, located near the intersection of Willow Road and Bayfront Expressway, is within a half-mile of Sun’s offices, as well as two business hubs, Willow Park and Menlo Business Park, according to Community Development Director Arlinda Heineck.

The Menlo Park City Council is expected tonight to approve a study of the proposed station, and what could be added to provide guaranteed ridership for Dumbarton Rail. One option would be to create up to 2,200 new residential units, Heineck said.

“The primary funding for Dumbarton Rail comes from regional Measure 2 funds, approved by voters in 2004,” said Joe Hurley, director of the San Mateo County Transit Authority. “But in order for the money to flow, there has to be a certain density near the station.”

Dumbarton Rail was given an initial price tag of $300 million in 2004, but cost estimates ballooned to $590 million in 2006 and have not been updated since then, said Jonah Weinberg, spokesman for the San Mateo County Transit District.

Plans call for six round trips per day, carrying 4,800 passengers when service kicks off in 2010. Planners have projected that ridership could rise to 6,900 by 2025.

The service would use existing train tracks in the East Bay, cross the Bay on a rebuilt train bridge parallel to the Dumbarton Bridge and use Caltrain’s right of way along the Peninsula. In addition, it would make use of existing stations, including one in downtown Menlo Park and another in downtown Redwood City, but Dumbarton Rail’s route and station plan has not been finalized, Weinberg said.

The city’s findings will be used as part of the overall planningprocess.

“They’re looking at the area around the proposed station, but they don’t get to decide how the station is built. They can make recommendations,” Weinberg said.

Regional leaders are studying the overall environmental effects of launching the Dumbarton Rail service. That study should be finished in late 2008, Hurley said.

bwinegarner@examiner.com

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