Dumbarton Rail to lose $91m to help feed SJ BART money pit
- Published Wednesday, September 17, 2008, by the Menlo Park Almanac
Dumbarton Rail will likely lose funding
By Rory Brown
Unless there's a drastic change of events, it looks as if the
Dumbarton Rail project will see $91 million of its funds diverted
to plans to extend BART a step closer to San Jose.
The seemingly inevitable transfer of funds throws a wrench in the
longstanding goal to connect Menlo Park and Redwood City to the
East Bay via rail service along a restored Dumbarton Rail Bridge.
The Metropolitan Transportation Commission's Programs and Allocation
Committee recommended on Sept. 10 to divert the Dumbarton Rail funds,
collected through Regional Measure 2, to efforts to extend BART to
Warm Springs. (Warm Springs is in southern Fremont, just north of
the Santa Clara County border.)
The committee's decision is the latest chapter in a fight between
BART and Dumbarton Rail for limited Bay Area transit dollars.
In July, members of the Dumbarton Rail Advisory Committee, made up of
public officials from communities and agencies that would be served
by the rail service, denounced the proposed transfer. They argued
that moving the funds -- even on a temporary basis -- would delay,
and effectively kill, efforts to get the estimated $600 million
cross-Bay train line built.
The full Metropolitan Transportation Commission is expected to vote
on the matter on Sept. 24.
'Not a disaster'
Under the current Dumbarton Rail plan, six trains a day would take
commuters form the East Bay to the Peninsula via a new bridge before
connecting to the Dumbarton line through East Palo Alto and Menlo
Park. Trains would connect to the Caltrain tracks in Redwood City,
and would return to the East Bay in the evening.
Although the project was already $300 million short of covering its
estimated costs, it was originally slated to be built by 2012. The
$91 million transfer, expected to be finalized Sept. 24, would
further delay construction, but at least one supporter of the project
is still optimistic.
"This isn't a complete disaster," said Sue Lempert, the lone person
on the MTC committee to vote against transferring the funds to BART.
She noted that environmental analysis will still move forward on the
project, and other commissioners seem to share enthusiasm for getting
Dumbarton Rail funded in a somewhat timely manner.
"As soon as the Dumbarton Bridge gets jammed up [with traffic],
people are going to be asking what our options are, and Dumbarton
Rail is the best option out there," she said. "We'll see what
happens, but I'm hopeful. I'm optimistic."
The MTC committee also recommended that funding be put aside to
increase bus service across the Dumbarton Bridge as a short-term
solution to ease traffic congestion, as well as provide an
opportunity to study cross-Bay ridership.
Susan Robinson, one of many Menlo Park residents keeping a close
eye on Dumbarton Rail, has a different take on the committee's vote.
She said she's happy to see an increase in bus service, but still
questions that if the rail project is built, funds will be available
to mitigate potential noise and vibration impacts of trains rumbling
by Menlo Park homes.
"Dumbarton Rail is getting more and more expensive, and there's less
funding available," Ms. Robinson said. "With a bigger gap in funding,
it'll be less and less likely that neighbors' concerns will be
[BATN: See also:
Column: MTC to revisit taking $91m from Dumbarton rail for BART
Editorial: BART vs. Dumbarton rail; dysfunctional transit planning
Warm Springs BART vs. Dumbarton Rail debate gets testy
Should Warm Springs BART defund transbay Dumbarton rail?
Editorial: Don't divert Dumbarton rail funds for costly SJ BART
SCCo. Grand Jury advises VTA to pull Dumbarton rail funds
Dumbarton Rail may be sacrificed to help SJ BART, Pacheco HSR