Vote puts billions of dollars at stake for Transbay Terminal

California’s largest redevelopment project, the cash-strapped Transbay Terminal, could receive millions if the largest bond measure on the November ballot passes.

Proposition 1B, the $20 billion transportation infrastructure bond, promises to fund public transportation modernization programs, transportation improvement projects and local road upgrades. Last month, a Field Poll showed the bond measure receiving 54 percent of likely voters’ approval.

While the legislation does not name specific projects for which the billions would be earmarked, the Metropolitan Transportation Commission estimates that the Bay Area will receive nearly $4.5 billion.

The new $3.4 billion Transbay Terminal, which is intended to bring all regional transportation under one roof, including AC Transit, BART, Caltrain and high-speed rail service, currently has only around $1.5 billion in funding.

The Transbay Terminal project, which would build the 21st century equivalent of Grand Central Station at Mission and First streets, needs an additional $1.9 billion to be completed.

“The TJPA looks at every opportunity for funding,” said Maria Ayerdi, the executive director of the Transbay Joint Powers Authority. “The bond does offer potential opportunities for funding.”

Much of the money needed to extend the Caltrain line from its 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 bond. Sacramento lawmakers, however, have delayed until 2008 a $9.95 billion bond initiative to fund the high-speed rail designed to travel between Los Angeles and San Francisco in 2½ hours.

Despite the financial setback, construction of a temporary terminal is scheduled to begin in 2008. The Caltrain portion is scheduled to start in 2012.

Of the proposed $20 billion that could flow if Prop. 1B passes, the Transbay Terminal project could receive around $175 million if funds are allocated the way advocates hope they will be distributed, said Greg Harper, a member of the Transbay Joint Powers Authority board representing the East Bay's AC Transit.

Harper said staff members of Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata’s office said a portion of the money could be used to pay for the terminal. Perata, D-Oakland, authored the legislation with Assembly Speaker Fabian Núñez, D-Los Angeles. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed the legislation earlier this year.

A complex set of formulas plus a competitive bidding process will determine which agencies receive how much, said Rebecca Long, an analyst with the Metropolitan Transportation Commission.

“We will compete very well,” said Transbay Joint Powers Authority board member Michael Cohen, who represents San Francisco. “We’re ahead of the curve.”

The Oakland-based MTC will play a large role in determining where the funds are allocated in the Bay Area, said Art Bauer, a spokesman for the state Senate Transportation and Housing Committee.

The Transbay Terminal project would step to the front of the line for funding because San Francisco voters in 1999 passed Proposition K, said Dennis Oliver, a spokesman for California Alliance for Jobs.

Seven years ago, The City’s voters agreed to support the extension of Caltrain to a rebuilt Transbay Terminal.

mcarroll@examiner.com

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