Newsom: High-speed rail is key to Transbay Terminal

Efforts to bring high-speed rail to California will keepthe vision of San Francisco’s $4 billion Transbay Terminal rebuild project alive, Mayor Gavin Newsom said Thursday.

Earlier this year, Newsom expressed concern about the future of the Transbay reconstruction project, which has been designed to bring together regional bus lines, a Caltrain connection and the state’s first high-speed rail line within the new transit center at First and Mission streets.

Regional transportation leaders have been counting on state funding for high-speed rail to offset some of the costs of the terminal project. High-speed rail was expected to get a needed infusion of cash from a $9.95 billion general obligation bond headed for this November’s ballot. But with several other bond measures going before voters this year, there are concerns that the high-speed train ballot measure would get left at the station.

On Tuesday, Newsom presided over a news conference with other city leaders and transportation advocates to call for the state’s leaders to now support a new Assembly bill, AB 713, that would push the High-Speed Rail bond to 2008, but also provide a $113 million allocation to continue engineering work on the proposed fast-track train, including the extension component that would bring it past the current Caltrain depot on Fourth and Townsend streets and to the new Transbay Terminal site.

San Francisco has already spent $40 million of city funds for the terminal project, according to officials, which was partly due to a voter-approved mandate in 1999 to extend the Caltrain closer to the Transbay Terminal.

Newsom said bringing the train tracks to downtown made logical and fiscal sense, adding that the current Mission Bay location might have been appropriate at one time, “but today is not as ideal as the Transbay Terminal.”

The California High-Speed Rail project is designed to be more than 700 miles long, with 30 potential station locations.

Theestimated cost for the project is $40 billion, a dollar amount that has provoked criticism from some state leaders, who say California has more pressing budget priorities. Supporters of the high-speed rail say the future depends on new innovation.

“We’ll be alleviating congestion, bringing much-needed housing to the Bay Area and San Francisco, and improving our quality of life,” said Maria Ayerdi, executive director of the Transbay Joint Powers Authority, the regional agency overseeing the Transbay Terminal project.

“And you’ll be able to get from Los Angeles to San Francisco, have lunch and be back in Los Angeles for dinner.”

beslinger@examiner.comBay Area NewsLocalTransittransportation

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