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Should Warm Springs BART defund transbay Dumbarton rail?

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  • 7/16 Menlo Park Almanac
    Published Wednesday, July 16, 2008, by the Menlo Park Almanac Should $91 million for Dumbarton Rail be given to BART in East Bay? Two key meetings on this
    Message 1 of 1 , Jul 17, 2008
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      Published Wednesday, July 16, 2008, by the Menlo Park Almanac

      Should $91 million for Dumbarton Rail be given to BART in East Bay?

      Two key meetings on this topic are set for this week and next in
      Menlo Park and Palo Alto.

      By Marion Softky

      Amid rising gas prices, escalating construction costs, and shrinking
      budgets, the regional infighting over who should get limited transit
      funds is reaching new heights.

      The latest squabble could take $91 million allocated to bringing
      rail service across the old Dumbarton railroad bridge by 2012, and
      give it to BART for an extension from Fremont to Warm Springs near
      the Alameda-Santa Clara county line.

      From Warm Springs, it could take $4 to $5 billion more to get BART
      to its goal in San Jose, said Jim Bigelow, chair of the Menlo Park
      Chamber of Commerce Transportation Committee. "BART can cost $100,000
      per foot."

      The $91 million would come from funds provided under RM-2, the 2004
      ballot measure that raised tolls on seven Bay Area bridges by $1 to
      improve traffic flow across the Bay. These funds are currently
      committed to the ongoing project to rebuild the Dumbarton Rail
      bridge so that East Bay commuters have a new way to get to jobs on
      the Peninsula.

      The shift in RM-2 funds to BART was recommended by the staff of the
      Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC), at the instigation of
      BART supporters in the East Bay and parts of Santa Clara County. The
      staff suggests that Alameda County will repay the funds in 10 to 15
      years.

      Now supporters of Dumbarton Rail and better transit across the Bay
      are pushing back. The MTC staff is re-evaluating its recommendation,
      and the full commission will take action at its meeting Sept. 10.
      The MTC is the regional agency responsible for allocating funds to
      transportation projects based on its regional plans.

      "This (Dumbarton rail) is an important link in the regional rail
      network," said Sue Lempert, representative of San Mateo County's 20
      cities on MTC. "This is the most cost-effective place (in the Bay)
      to put a railroad."

      Two community meetings in the next week will help shape input to the
      MTC decision in September. The Citizens Advisory Panel will meet
      Wednesday, July 16, at 7 p.m. in the Menlo Park Senior Center, 110
      Terminal Ave. in Menlo Park; the Dumbarton Rail Policy Advisory
      Committee, made up of public officials from communities served by
      the rail project, will meet Tuesday, July 22, at 2 p.m. in Palo Alto
      City Hall, 250 Hamilton Ave.

      While Menlo Park is conflicted about the project to restore rail
      service, it wants to keep the money. Residents support better
      transit, but many, particularly those who live near the old railroad,
      don't want trains; they support alternatives, such as buses or light
      rail.

      "I'm against moving money out of the Dumbarton Corridor," said Menlo
      Park Councilman Heyward Robinson, who serves on the policy advisory
      committee. "When voters passed RM-2, they intended for the money to
      help cross-Bay travel. That money is coming from tolls on the
      Dumbarton Bridge."

      Dumbarton Rail

      The dream of passenger service across the 1914 rail bridge dates back
      more than 30 years to Malcolm Dudley, then a councilman in Atherton.
      Cross-Bay trains would allow East Bay passengers from the Altamont
      Commute Express, Capitol Corridor, BART, and buses to connect
      directly with Caltrain stations on the Peninsula.

      Now, SamTrans has purchased the right of way as far as Newark, $300
      million in funds have been secured, and planning is well under way
      for trains to begin running by 2012.

      Partial engineering, and an environmental impact report should be
      complete by late 2009, and construction could start in 2010, Mr.
      Bigelow said.

      Initial service would consist of six round trips per day. Six morning
      trains from the East Bay would travel to Redwood City, where three
      would go north toward San Francisco, and three would head south to
      San Jose. They would return in the evening.

      "We're only talking about six trains a day. We're not talking about
      trains at night," Ms Lempert said. "It won't have freight; that's
      what people are worried about. The line will eventually be
      electrified."

      Nevertheless, a host of problems still face the project, even if it
      hangs on to the $91 million. The estimated cost has doubled to $600
      million, and there are tricky negotiations with Union Pacific, which
      still owns the right of way between Newark and Union City.

      At the same time, changes in the economy may make expansion of
      transit even more important. Ms. Lempert cited population growth,
      the revival of Silicon Valley, and soaring gas prices. "There will
      be gridlock on the Dumbarton (highway) Bridge," she said. "Getting
      on and off the Dumbarton Bridge is already a problem. All this will
      intensify in the coming years."

      Ms. Lempert suggested the MTC might fund a rapid bus line across
      the highway bridge in the interim before trains are ready to run.

      Mr. Bigelow suggested the projects could be phased to allow service
      to begin on schedule and postpone less critical components.

      There also remains substantial opposition to reviving train service,
      particularly from the communities of Lorelei Manor, Suburban Park
      and North Fair Oaks that are threaded by the tracks

      Hearings on the environmental impact report in 2009 will allow
      opponents to push for alternatives, such as buses.

      Mr. Robinson supports bus rapid transit as cheaper and potentially
      better. "I'm open to whatever the best solution is," he said. "There
      are not enough transit dollars to go around. We need to use the
      transit dollars we have most effectively."

      Santa Clara County is split, with the San Jose area committed to
      BART, and northern communities more favorable to Dumbarton solutions.
      This year's Santa Clara County Civil Grand Jury slammed the Dumbarton
      rail project and recommended that Santa Clara County withdraw.

      Meanwhile, Palo Alto Mayor Yoriko Kishimoto, a member of the
      Dumbarton policy advisory committee and also the Valley
      Transportation Authority board, blasted the proposed transfer of
      funds to BART, in an opinion piece in the Palo Alto Daily News.
      "BART to Warm Springs is in itself a bridge to nowhere," she wrote,
      since the county can't afford the further extension to San Jose.
      She called for a more regional vision, including improvements to
      modernize Caltrain.

      Anything to do with BART in the East Bay seems to be unpopular on
      this side of the Bay. "I don't support expanding BART anywhere,"
      said Mr. Robinson.

      Ms. Lempert questioned MTC's commitment to BART. The real damage
      BART is doing, she said, is to "take money away from all other
      transit projects.

      "Is it better to get people to Warm Springs? Or to get them across
      the Bay?"

      INFORMATION

      Two key community meetings are planned to deal with the issue of
      diverting funds from Dumbarton rail to BART. The Citizens Advisory
      Panel will meet Wednesday, July 16, at 7 p.m. in the Menlo Park
      Senior Center, 110 Terminal Ave. in Menlo Park; the Dumbarton Rail
      Policy Advisory Committee, made up of public officials from
      communities served by the rail project, will meet Tuesday, July 22,
      at 2 p.m. in Palo Alto City Hall, 250 Hamilton Ave.


      [BATN: See also:

      Editorial: Don't divert Dumbarton rail funds for costly SJ BART
      http://groups.yahoo.com/group/BATN/message/38945

      Comment: Push to cannibalize Dumbarton rail funds for SJ BART
      http://groups.yahoo.com/group/BATN/message/38878

      Dumbarton Rail may be sacrificed to help fund Warm Springs, SJ BART
      http://groups.yahoo.com/group/BATN/message/38755

      SCCo. Grand Jury advises VTA to pull Dumbarton rail funds
      http://groups.yahoo.com/group/BATN/message/38761

      SCCo. Grand Jury slams VTA, San Jose BART
      http://groups.yahoo.com/group/BATN/message/19009

      Grand jury raps BART linkup to San Jose
      http://groups.yahoo.com/group/BATN/message/18962

      SCCo. Grand Jury report: halt SJ BART extension
      http://groups.yahoo.com/group/BATN/message/18942

      SCCo. Grand Jury blasts VTA on SJ BART extension
      http://groups.yahoo.com/group/BATN/message/18940

      VTA chair brushes off Grand Jury SJ BART criticisms
      http://groups.yahoo.com/group/BATN/message/18903

      SCCo. Grand Jury: Halt BART to SJ, reform VTA
      http://groups.yahoo.com/group/BATN/message/18861 ]
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